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US Senate Race in Florida Goes to Hand Recount

Florida’s U.S. Senate race is going to an automatic hand recount as a federal judge angrily told election officials they are making the state a global “laughingstock.”

Florida state law requires a hand recount if a machine count finds the margin of victory is less than 0.25 percent.

As of late Thursday, Democratic incumbent Senator Bill Nelson trailed his Republican challenger, Governor Rick Scott, by 0.15 percent.

Election officials missed a Thursday deadline for recounting the ballots for the Senate, saying counting machines in Palm Beach kept breaking down.

Officials in Tampa Bay declined to turn in their recount result because it came up more than 800 votes short of the original Election Day tally.

Federal Judge Mark Walker refused to extend the deadline and berated election officials for not anticipating problems.

Both Democrats and Republicans have filed a number of lawsuits related to vote counting.

“We have been the laughingstock of the world election after election, but we’ve still chosen not to fix this,” an angry Walker said Thursday.

He was no doubt also thinking about the 2000 presidential election which had to be decided by the Supreme Court when a statewide vote recount in Florida was turning into a mess of confusion, charges, and counter charges.

Walker has also given voters until Saturday afternoon to correct their ballots if they weren’t counted because of mismatched signatures.

Florida officials testified in court that nearly 4,000 ballots had already been rejected by local election officials because the signatures mailed in didn’t match the signature on file. The new deadline would apply to many ballots likely cast by young Democratic voters.

A study conducted before the elections by the American Civil Liberties Union in Florida discovered mail-in ballots from young voters were more likely to be dismissed, partially because the young voters — who primarily use computer keyboards — have not used handwriting enough to develop a consistent signature.

Gains by Democrats 

Democrats, meanwhile, continue to gain seats in the House of Representatives, after taking back the lower chamber last week for the first time in eight years. Democrats now have a 230 to 198 edge, with seven races still undecided.

Jared Golden was declared the winner Thursday of a race in Maine against incumbent Republican Representative Bruce Poliquin. That contest represented the first test of a new state ranked-choice voting system, designed to prevent candidates in races featuring at least three contenders from winning office without majority support. Golden is a Marine veteran who campaigned on progressive policies such as Medicare for everyone.

The day after the election, U.S. President Donald Trump boasted that “It was a big day yesterday. The Republican Party defied history to expand our Senate majority while significantly beating expectations in the House.”

“It was very close to a complete victory,” he trumpeted.

As results rolled in on election night, it appeared Republicans might add three or four seats to their current 51-49 Senate majority.

But a Republican lead for a contest in the southwestern state of Arizona collapsed, giving Democrat Kyrsten Sinema a seat that been held by Republicans for 30 years.

With Senate races in Florida and Mississippi yet to be decided, Republicans at most will add two seats to their majority.

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