Florida begins recount in nearly-tied contest for Alcee Hastings' former seat

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It will be another week before a winner is declared in the primary for a South Florida congressional seat after two recounts on Friday kept the top two Democratic candidates separated by just a handful of votes.

Elections officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties conducted an automatic machine recount followed by a hand recount of ballots that either registered no vote or were disqualified because it appeared that more than one candidate was chosen.

After the recounts were over South Florida health care CEO Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick led Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness by just five votes. Both received nearly 24 percent of the primary vote with more than 49,000 ballots being cast.

This means that any ballots received from overseas and military voters between now and Sept. 12 could sway the final outcome. The ballots are allowed to be counted as long as they are postmarked by Election Day.

The winner of the Democratic primary is all-but guaranteed to win the safely-Democratic seat that was held for years by Rep. Alcee Hastings, who died in spring. The special election will be held on Jan. 11.

How we got here: Hastings, who was in office for nearly 30 years, died in April following a battle with pancreatic cancer. The Democratic primary attracted 11 candidates, including three legislators as well as current and former local elected officials.

Voter turnout in the special off-year election was light in the district, which connects several Black cities and neighborhoods in Palm Beach and Broward counties as well as farming communities near Lake Okeechobee.

Florida law requires an automatic machine recount if the margin is one-half of one percent or less. If the margin is .25 percent or less after the machine recount then election officials must do a hand recount of ballots that either registered no vote or were disqualified because it appeared that more than one candidate was chosen.

What’s next: County canvassing boards will certify the final results on Nov. 12. The eventual Democratic primary winner will square off against Republican Jason Mariner, who won the GOP primary and three other independent and minor party candidates during the January special election.

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