What’s up with voter recounts in Arizona, Georgia, and Florida? Here’s what you need to know

Washington Post / YouTube Stacey Abrams celebrates victory in Georgia...
Washington Post / YouTube

The midterm elections happened on Tuesday, but votes are still being counted in three important states: Georgia, Arizona, and Florida. These states, while all facing slightly different circumstances, have one thing in common: their vote counts have been super, super close. So close, in fact, that it warrants counting (or recounting) every single vote.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, another thing these states have in common is that Republicans have moved to either slow down the vote count, or tried to prevent it entirely. Voter suppression of minority constituents, too, is a recurring theme.

So, what’s the current situation in each state? Here’s the basic breakdown:

Arizona: Rep. Krysten Sinema (D), leads Rep. Martha McSally (R) by over 20,000 votes, with more coming in to count.

Florida Senate: Gov. Rick Scott (R) is surpassing Sen. Bill Nelson (D) by around 15,000 votes.

Florida Governor: Rep. Don DeSantis (R) leads Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) by about 35,000 votes.

Georgia: former Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) leads against former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) by over 60,000 votes. 

Arizona, in detail:

To start, Arizona got about two million votes. Like many states, they accept absentee and mail-in ballots. This year, they got about 600,000 mail-in ballots that haven’t yet been processed. You read that right: The midterms are over, but these ballots still haven’t been included in the final tally. Counting these mail-in ballots takes a long time, because counties need to verify that the votes are legitimate.

Republicans initially tried to suppress this verification, arguing that different counties had different methods, and that no votes counted after Election Day should go toward the ultimate tally. That didn’t fly, though, so the mail-in ballots are moving forward in the count.

Florida, in detail:

Like Arizona, there is a rush to count provisional ballots in Florida. Some types of ballots, like those from military bases and overseas, tend to lean Republican. But some to-be-counted ballots come from counties that are predicted to go Democrat. Either way, these ballots aren’t counted right away because they need to be verified (say, by reaching out to the voter to verify their address), and that takes time. But in Florida, when tallies come too close to the “margin of error” (0.5 percent), a recount is automatic. And if it’s even closer (0.25 percent), that recount takes place by hand.

As it currently stands, Scott has a lead of less than .25 percent in the fight for the Senate seat, and DeSantis has a lead of about .4 percent in the battle for governor of the Sunshine State. Counts are due in by noon on Saturday, and if margins are below .5 percent, then a recount by machine kicks in.

UPDATE: Florida Secretary of State has ordered a full machine recount. Results are expected back by Thursday.

Georgia, in detail:

It seems that all eyes have been on Georgia for months. While Kemp has finally resigned from his position as Georgia’s Secretary of State (after overseeing the election he ran in, of course), he claims it’s so he can prepare for his new role as Governor. But Abrams isn’t giving up, and has not yet conceded.

Ballots are still being counted in some counties in Georgia, and some voters claim they never received confirmation that their mail-in absentee ballots were received. Beyond that, voter suppression has been rampant in Georgia. People of color faced incredibly long lines, limited machines, and few resources to access voting to begin with.

Some Georgians, who had to relocate post-Hurricane Michael, say they received their ballots in the mail too late to send them back in time for the midterms. Abrams and her team are planning to take legal action to make sure that these votes can still be counted, even though they will have been received after the deadline.

Where could all of this lead? Right now, Abrams is just one-third of a percentage point away from a runoff against Kemp. So at this point, literally every single point matters.

Whether or not recounts actually change the election matters, of course, but even if the winner stays the same, it’s still important for every vote to be validated and recorded. Voter suppression has long worked against marginalized voters; including people of color, trans people, women, low-income people, and more, for decades. People lose wages, stand for hours, and commit emotional time and energy to doing their civic duty. Even if the results stay the same, each vote deserves its count.

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