Florida Recount Laws

This information was initially released on October 21, 2010 and updated in October 2012.

Voting System Used: 

Mixed paper ballot and DREs without VVPAT

For more details, visit Verified Voting.  Paperless DREs are only used for disability access in 64 of 67 counties.

Counting Method: 

Mix of recount, retabulation and electronic review

When a close vote margin (0.5% or less) initiates a recount, paper ballots are first retabulated using automatic tabulating equipment. See Florida Statutes, Title IX, Section 102.141, "County canvassing board; duties," Subsection (7) and (7)(a):  http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2012/102.141. If this retabulation returns results showing that the close vote margin is 0.25% or less, a manual recount is called for. However, this manual recount applies only to those ballots sorted by the automatic tabulating equipment as having either undervotes or overvotes for the office or measure in question, and the hand count cannot be held "if the number of overvotes, undervotes, and provisional ballots is fewer than the number of votes needed to change the outcome of the election." See Section 102.166, "Manual Recounts": http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2012/102.166. Almost all precincts throughout Florida currently use direct-recording electronic machines (DREs) without a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) for accessible voting. For these votes. only an electronic review of initial returns is possible.

Initiating Mechanism: 

Close vote margin

See Section 102.141, Subsection (7): http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2012/102.141.

Close Vote Margin: 

Less than or equal to 0.5%

The close vote margin for Florida elections is 0.5% of the total votes cast for a given office or measure. The law specifies that candidates, including candidates for retention to a judicial office, and ballot measures are all subject to recounts. Both primary and general elections are eligible for recounts. The apparent losing candidate by this margin can waive the recount if such a request is made in writing to the canvassing board.

As noted above, the 0.5% close vote margin at first initiates a retabulation of paper ballots. If the retabulation results in a vote margin that is less than or equal to 0.25%, a hand recount is called for. However, the hand recount is only for those ballots containing undervotes or overvotes, and is mandated only if the collective total of undervotes and overvotes is enough to alter the result of the election. See Section 102.166, Subsection (1): http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2012/102.166.

Timing: "The returns shall be filed no later than 3 p.m. on the 5th day after any primary election and no later than 3 p.m. on the 9th day after any general election in which a recount was ordered by the Secretary of State." See Section 102.141, Subsection (7)(c): http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2012/102.141.

Challengers and Observers: 

Statutes specify that recount must be public

Party/candidate or initiator has statutory authority to appoint challengers

No statutory guidance for recount observers

Section 102.166, Subsection (3):  http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2012/102.166, specifies that the hand recount shall be open to the public and Section 102.141, Subsection (2) http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2012/102.141, specifies that the county canvassing board shall meet publicly when canvassing. The Florida Election Rules clarify that both retabulations and hand recounts shall be open to the public. See Rule 1S-2.130, “Recount Procedures,” Subsection (1)(a): http://election.dos.state.fl.us/rules/adopted-rules/pdf/1s2031.pdf.

The Florida Statutes, Section 102.66, Subsection (5): http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2012/102.166, requires the Department of State to make rules regarding both public observers of the manual recount as well as “procedures relating to candidate and petitioner representatives.” Candidates whose “ultimate success or failure in the race” could be impacted by a recount are entitled to representatives at the recount, and if it is a partisan contest, the political parties for the affected candidate are also entitled to one representative each. All representatives must be placed on a list for election officials. See the Florida Election Rules, 1S-2.031, “Recount procedures,” Subsections (f) and (g): http://election.dos.state.fl.us/rules/adopted-rules/pdf/1s2031.pdf. For ballot measures and issues, political committees may be entitled to have a representative if they have filed before the election support for or against the measure. See Rule 1S-2.031, Subsection (h).

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Secretary of State or Election Board responsible for defining intent

The Florida's statutes state that "A vote for a candidate or ballot measure shall be counted if there is a clear indication on the ballot that the voter has made a definite choice," and that "The Department of State shall adopt specific rules for each certified voting system prescribing what constitutes a "clear indication on the ballot that the voter has made a definite choice." See Section 102.166: http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2012/102.166. (Please note that the language of this section, however, indicates that rules for all voting systems, not just hand recounts, will be adopted by the Department of State.)