Early voting

Nestor Garcia, a 21-year-old industrial engineer major, attends the early voting session at the J. Wayne Reitz Union early Monday morning to vote for the first time.

As three key Florida state races are up for a recount, the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections office is gearing up to spend up to 54 hours recounting votes.  

The races for Florida governor, senator and Commissioner of Agriculture are all officially within the margin for a machine recount, according to the Florida Division of Elections.

Democratic candidates Andrew Gillum, Bill Nelson and Nikki Fried lost their respective races Tuesday night. But the gap between them and their Republican opponents, Ron DeSantis, Rick Scott and Matt Caldwell, continued to shrink as more ballots were counted, according to The New York Times.

Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton has been anticipating a machine recount because of the close margins, she said Friday night.

Teams of volunteers in the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections office will feed ballots into 30 machines for the recount starting at 1 p.m. Sunday, she said. The results of the machine recount are due to Secretary of State Ken Dentzer at 3 p.m. Thursday.

“We’re going to run it 24/7 until it’s done,” Barton said.

State law requires a machine recount if the margin is smaller than 0.5 percent and a manual recount if the margin is smaller than 0.25 percent.

Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, withdrew his concession Saturday afternoon on Twitter.

As of 2:30 p.m. today, Rick Scott leads Bill Nelson by 12,562 votes, Ron DeSantis leads Andrew Gillum by 33,684 votes and Nikki Fried took the lead over Matt Caldwell by 5,326 votes.

On Friday, as Florida’s high-profile races stood in recount territory, the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections office joined 66 other counties in sending unofficial voting counts to Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

While the Alachua County Canvassing Board meets after every election to scrutinize each vote, ensuring the count is correct, this time the recounted votes could affect the outcome of top statewide races on the ballot.

The board reviewed and processed ballots that hadn’t been counted on Election Day for reasons including:

  • Ballots that were unscannable due to smudges or marks

  • Provisional ballots, which are filled by those who went to the wrong polling station or forgot to bring a form of ID

  • Ballots that were faxed to Alachua County by military officers overseas

  • Envelopes of mail-in ballots that could not be opened until they were accepted by the canvassing board

The most common were provisional ballots. Alachua County had 550, said TJ Pyche, the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections office spokesperson. Of that number, 278 were rectified during Friday’s board meeting, now counting toward the final election results.

Volunteers sat in teams of two hunched over unscannable and provisional ballots for 12 hours as they made duplicate ballots to scan.

Chief Deputy Supervisor of Elections William Boyett read aloud the numbers of provisional ballots and the reason they weren’t originally counted. A small but unmoving group of Gainesville residents listened while every ballot was reviewed.

The canvassing board moved to tentatively reject the ballot of a transgender voter whose signatures didn’t match because he legally changed his name.

During public comment, Terry Fleming, the president of the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus, was the first to urge the canvassing board to accept the transgender voter’s ballot.

Fleming, who was asked to watch the counting process on behalf of Nelson’s campaign, said he noticed the board moved to accept the ballot of a voter who had a partial name change but reject the transgender voter’s ballot.

“It struck me as uneven treatment,” he said.

Fleming doesn’t know Daniel Chitwood, the 24-year-old man whose vote will now count toward unofficial election results.

In fact, Chitwood said he didn’t think his vote would count at all.

Chitwood, who began transitioning as a transgender man five years ago, said he legally changed his full name about eight months ago.

When he and his boyfriend went to their precinct to vote Tuesday, his boyfriend was done within 10 minutes. Chitwood was held up for about an hour and a half, he said.

He said he left the precinct feeling persecuted by the voting process.

“The people go to the polls because they think they're vote matters, then stuff like this happens and they don't feel like it does,” he said.

Simone Chriss, an attorney who focuses on transgender rights, said Chitwood should have been offered a signature differs oath form at the precinct but wasn't. The board decided to accept the ballot because of a poll worker’s mistake.

Chitwood was taking a nap Friday night when Chriss left him a voicemail about his ballot being counted. He said he had no idea a handful of strangers was arguing for his ballot while he slept.

“I’d love to meet them, give them a handshake and hug and tell them how much they mean to me,” he said.

Chitwood’s vote could be one of many that sway narrow election results toward Gillum or Nelson. Like the rest of Florida, he’ll wait and see.

Editor’s note: During the reporting process, a writer learned the canvassing board was reviewing her provisional ballot. Another reporter was assigned to finish the story.

Contact Amanda Rosa at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AmandaNicRosa

Contact Alyssa Ramos at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @LysKRamos

Amanda Rosa is a third-year journalism major from Miami Beach, FL. As the crime reporter, she covers breaking news and crime in Gainesville and the University of Florida. She loves drawing, reading and drinking too much coffee.