Florida Recount Laws
This information was updated in October 2020.
All statutory citations are from Florida Statutes Title IX, Electors and Elections.
Mix of hand count and retabulation
A close vote margin of less than or equal to 0.5% initiates a machine recount. Paper ballots are retabulated using automatic tabulating equipment. Section 102.141(7) & (7)(a). If this retabulation shows that the close vote margin is less than or equal to 0.25% , a manual recount is conducted. 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 and undervotes is fewer than the number of votes needed to change the outcome of the election." Section 102.166(1)(b).
Close vote margin
Less than or equal to 0.5%
The close vote margin for Florida elections is less than or equal to 0.5% of the total votes cast for a given office or measure. These recounts are initiated automatically by election officials. 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 candidate or candidates who are defeated by the close-vote margin may waive the recount if a request is made in writing to the canvassing board. Section 102.141(7).
As noted in the counting methods above, the close-vote margin first initiates a retabulation of the paper ballots. If the retabulation results in a vote margin that is less than or equal to 0.25%, a hand recount is conducted. However, the hand recount is only for those ballots containing undervotes or overvotes, and is required only if the candidate or candidates decline to waive the manual count and the collective total of undervotes and overvotes is enough to alter the result of the election. Section 102.166(1).
The presidential preference primary and political party executive committee positions are not subject to the close-vote-margin recount. Recount Procedure Summary (p.1).
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." Section 102.141(7)(c).
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, (3) specifies that the hand recount shall be open to the public and Section 102.141(2). specifies that the county canvassing board shall meet publicly when canvassing. The Florida Administrative Code clarifies that both retabulations and hand recounts shall be open to the public. Rule 1S-2.031(2)(e ).
Section 102.166(5)(d) 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. 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. Rule 1S-2.031(3)(d) and (e).
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." Section 102.166(4)(a) and (b). See also Rule 1S-2.027.
Note that the 2020 Florida Statutes contain some changes that are not effective until Jan. 1, 2021. See the changes for sections 102.141. and 102.166 in Chapter 2020-109.