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A Florida Recount? When Do Presidential Election Votes Get Recounted?

Nov. 7, 2012
Personal Finance
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Could this be a repeat of the 2000 Florida election recount when George Bush and Al Gore received a nearly equal share of the six million ballots cast?  It could turn out that way as the final votes in Florida roll in and the candidates are within a few thousand votes.

Each state makes their own laws regarding election recounts.  Below is Florida’s statute which states that a 0.5% margin of victory or less will be grounds for a recount.

Florida State Senate Statute #7:

“If the unofficial returns reflect that a candidate for any office was defeated or eliminated by one-half of a percent or less of the votes cast for such office, that a candidate for retention to a judicial office was retained or not retained by one-half of a percent or less of the votes cast on the question of retention, or that a measure appearing on the ballot was approved or rejected by one-half of a percent or less of the votes cast on such measure, a recount shall be ordered of the votes cast with respect to such office or measure. The Secretary of State is responsible for ordering recounts in federal, state, and multicounty races. The county canvassing board or the local board responsible for certifying the election is responsible for ordering recounts in all other races. A recount need not be ordered with respect to the returns for any office, however, if the candidate or candidates defeated or eliminated from contention for such office by one-half of a percent or less of the votes cast for such office request in writing that a recount not be made.”

So while a recount may be officially allowed, will it happen?  The short answer is probably not.  The reason there was a recount in 2000 was that the fate of the entire election mattered on that state.  If Bush won the state, Bush won the election.  Same for Gore.  This isn’t the case in the 2012 election.  Even if Mitt Romney does win Florida, it is unlikely that he will win the election since he is now trailing considerably in Ohio and a few battleground states have already been called against him.  The statistical odds of Romney winning the election at this point have fallen to approximately 5%.  Therefore, the most likely outcome at this stage is that Romney will concede defeat based on his performance in other states and request that the recount not be done.


Joanna Pratt is the VP for NerdWallet Investing, a financial literacy website that helps investors find better funds for their 401(k) plans, find the best online brokers for options trading, and make smarter financial decisions in general.