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Recalling Past Recounts In Florida

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

What's really going on in Florida? Mandatory recounts have begun for both the Senate and governor's races, which are very close. President Trump, phone in hand, is tweeting that officials should simply declare his preferred candidates the winners. The Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott is currently governor, and Democrat Bill Nelson says Scott should recuse himself from any role in the recounts.

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BILL NELSON: People must have confidence in the integrity of the election. It remains the most important goal to make sure that every lawful vote be counted correctly.

INSKEEP: Our next guest is Paul Lux, supervisor of elections for Okaloosa County, Fla., and the president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections. He knows the rules, and he's on the line. Good morning, sir.

PAUL LUX: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Just so we understand, does the governor of Florida actually have any role in an election recount?

LUX: So by the law, he is on the Election Canvass Commission himself, and two of the cabinet members are the Election Canvass Commission which whose job is to certify the results that are sent to the state by the 67 counties. However, following 2000 in Florida, the secretary of state's office went from elected to appointed. So he is technically the boss of the chief election official, our Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

INSKEEP: OK. So he does have a potentially meaningful role. What about that other claim there? Is there any legal mechanism, a legal mechanism to follow President Trump's demand that whoever he says is the winner should just automatically be the winner?

LUX: Well, of course, we have a process here in Florida that is laid out very clearly in the law. Of course, following Bush v. Gore, we amended those laws to accommodate the new technology that we were using to put more deadlines into the law for how the recounts will be conducted, who is responsible for what during the recounts. And so we all have a process that is set forth in the law that we are following. I know there's some questions about who can and can't meet what deadlines, and some of that is a function of old equipment that is outdated, and some of that is a function of simply volume when it comes to some of the larger counties.

INSKEEP: Yeah. And there's been a lot of controversy about Broward County, where we've learned they have the ability to do a recount one election at a time in their multiple elections that need recounts, which has extended...

LUX: Actually, I think that's Palm Beach.

INSKEEP: Palm Beach County. Thank you very much. Palm Beach County. Thank you for correcting me. Broward County, there are a lot of different questions. But let's understand what the deadlines are. What is the deadline to be done with what over the next few days?

LUX: So what is going on now in counties that have not already concluded, myself, we worked Sunday and Monday to finish our machine recount. But the machine recount calls for an actual real tabulation of every vote that was part of the initial first unofficial totals that were filed by Saturday at noon following the Tuesday election.

INSKEEP: OK. So you've got to do the machine recount. And that has to be done by tomorrow?

LUX: It has to be done by Thursday at 3 p.m.

INSKEEP: OK. So and every county faces that same deadline, although there have been some court rulings in some cases. Is this correct?

LUX: Well, there has been one circuit court ruling extending the deadline, which of course, if you extend it for Palm Beach County, you inherently therefore extend it to all 67 counties. But I believe the ruling is specific because as you've mentioned, the equipment in Palm Beach, they can only redo one race at a time. And there are three statewide races, which means a retabulation of all of their ballots, three separate times, plus the subset of the one Florida legislative seat that they are recounting, which is certainly a much smaller subset of the whole count.

INSKEEP: OK. Very briefly - so there are some extensions coming. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican senator, has said, listen, just follow the law, people, get things done by the deadline. Which seems pretty straightforward and clear. Is it normal that judges would extend deadlines to count and make sure that everything's counted accurately?

LUX: Well, this is actually the first test of this new system that we've put in place since 2000, and so there is a provision in the law that does say what we do if you cannot meet the deadlines, the initial tabulation totals or the totals that stand as your county's official report. So there is a procedure in place for that.

INSKEEP: OK. Well, they're following the procedures then. We'll see what happens. Mr. Lux, thanks very much. Really appreciate it.

LUX: All right. Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: Paul Lux is supervisor of elections for Okaloosa County, Fla., president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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