When Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum conceded Florida’s gubernatorial race to his Republican opponent on election night, he was going off the best information he had at his disposal.
Quite a bit has changed since then. The margin of victory between him and former Rep. Ron DeSantis has now narrowed to 0.41 percentage point, which is enough to trigger a statewide machine recount.
Now Gillum is withdrawing his concession.
“Let me say clearly: I am replacing my words of concession with an uncompromised and unapologetic call that we count every single vote,” Gillum said at a news conference Saturday. “And I say this recognizing that my fate in this may or may not change.”
While concession speeches are not legally binding, they are a courteous gesture out of respect for the democratic process and the desire of the voters.
Before Gillum’s briefing, Florida’s Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced that the election results would be reviewed through an official recount. Florida law requires the secretary of state to call for a machine recount in races where unofficial results show a margin of 0.5 percentage point or less. If the machine recount shows a margin of 0.25 percentage points or less, the ballots will be recounted manually. (Manual recounts are done by hand and consider overvotes and undervotes rejected by the machine.)
Gillum also said that his team has organized at least 100 volunteers and lawyers, who will be spread out across the state to ensure a fair and accurate recount.
“We’re here because we want to make sure that the right that is guaranteed to all of us in our Constitution and certainly in our statutes is protected and that it is maintained,” he said.
At least two other races will be subject to a recount, including the Senate race between Gov. Rick Scott (R) and the incumbent, Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). The margin of victory in that race has narrowed to 0.15 percentage point, meaning it will undergo a manual recount.
As the margin of victory closed in the Senate race, Scott alleged that “rampant fraud” was present in the vote tallying. He called upon the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate ballot counting practices in Broward and Palm Beach counties. He also claimed Brenda Snipes and Susan Bucher, the respective supervisors of elections for those counties, were attempting to “steal” the election from him.
“We don’t get the opportunity to stop counting votes because we don’t like the direction in which the vote tally is headed,” Gillum said Saturday. “That is not democratic and certainly is not the American way. In America, we count every vote regardless of what the outcome may be.”
Republican suspicion has lingered over Democratic-stronghold Broward County, which was the subject of voting irregularities in the infamous 2000 presidential election recount. And while this is enough coincidence for some political observers to have feelings of déjà vu, there are several key differences, according to Barry Richard, who represented Republican candidate George W. Bush in the 2000 Florida recount and is now representing Gillum.
In 2000, the state’s recount system was entirely candidate motivated, meaning there was no recount unless a candidate asked for one. Candidates also had the right to designate which counties would be required to recount their votes. Within days after the 2000 election, at least 47 lawsuits were filed, and the debacle dragged on for 36 days until the Supreme Court settled the election in Bush’s favor over Democrat Al Gore.
“This is not 2000. It’s vastly, vastly different,” Richard said, thanks to Florida’s current election laws
He added that there is no evidence that anyone is committing fraud, nor does he see any reason for federal intervention.
“Speaking generically, the only role of the federal government in state elections is if they violate the United States Constitution or if for some reason they violate some federal law,” Richard said. “At this point — other than the fact that we are always operating under the requirements of the U.S. Constitution — just in general I don’t know of any specific role.”