Nelson, Scott spar as Florida Senate race nears hand recount

Florida Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonSenate barrels toward showdown over Trump's court picks Why Democratic policies outperform Democratic politicians in rural America Nelson concedes in bitterly-fought Florida Senate race MORE (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R) sparred on Thursday amid continued uncertainty over the results of their closely watched Senate race, with Nelson insisting that a recount was all but inevitable.

As of Thursday morning, Nelson and Scott were separated by roughly 22,000 votes — about 0.26 percent. In Florida, a machine recount is automatically triggered if the candidates are within 0.5 points of one another, while a hand recount is required if the margin is 0.25 percent or less.

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Nelson has not conceded the race. As a recount appeared increasingly likely on Wednesday, the three-term Democrat retained Marc Elias, a prominent lawyer who has represented Democrats in a number of election fights, to work for his campaign.

Elias said Thursday that he is confident Nelson will gain votes in a recount — enough to hand him another term in the Senate. He pointed to how drastically Scott’s lead has closed in the two days since Election Day, insisting ongoing canvassing by county election supervisors would play out in Nelsons favor.

“I’m confident that Sen. Nelson and the Democrats are going to do well in terms of vote share in the days to come, because when, at the end of the day, all eligible have their votes counted and counted accurately, the fundamental truth that we’re going to learn is that more voters voted for Sen. Nelson than Gov. Scott,” Elias told reporters on a conference call.

Elias raised concerns that in Broward County, near Miami, there had been more votes cast for down-ballot candidates than in the Senate race at the top of the ticket — a phenomenon called undervoting.

It’s not unusual for voters to mark their ballots for candidates for some offices and not others. But what is unusual, Elias said, is for undervoting to take place at the top of the ticket.

The lawyer said that he believes a hand recount will show that a number of ballots initially scanned by machines were not read properly due to stray markings or calibration issues, and that Nelson will likely gain votes from those ballots.

Scott’s campaign blasted the efforts on Thursday, issuing a statement accusing Nelson of trying to “steal” the election by pursuing a recount.

“It is sad and embarrassing that Bill Nelson would resort to these low tactics after the voters have clearly spoken,” his campaign said.

The ongoing Senate fight exemplifies Florida’s status as the nation’s largest and most volatile battleground state, where elections are often — and almost reliably — decided by ultra-slim margins.

In the race for Florida governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) on Thursday also opened the door to a possible recount two days after he conceded the race to former Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisScott defeats Nelson in Florida Senate race after bitter recount fight Gillum officially concedes in Florida gubernatorial race Trump: Gillum will be 'force to reckon with' MORE (R).

Gillum's communications director, Johanna Cervone, said that new votes totals showed a closer race than when Gillum conceded on Tuesday.

“Since that time, it has become clear there are many more uncounted ballots than was originally reported,” she said in a statement. “Our campaign, along with our attorney Barry Richard, is monitoring the situation closely and is ready for any outcome, including a state-mandated recount.”