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Judge Backs Suspending Recount Deadlines

Steve Newborn

A Leon County circuit judge Tuesday ordered the suspension of recount deadlines in the races for governor, agriculture commissioner and a state House seat to give Palm Beach County elections officials time to finish recounting ballots. 

But attorneys for Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner filed a notice Tuesday that they were taking the dispute to federal court, pointing to federal constitutional issues that are involved.

Democrat Jim Bonfiglio, a candidate in Palm Beach County’s House District 89, filed the lawsuit Monday in Leon County circuit court.

Bonfiglio trailed Republican Mike Caruso by 37 votes in unofficial results in their race for the House seat, triggering a machine recount.

But Bonfiglio’s lawsuit points to concerns that the Palm Beach County supervisor of elections office will not be able to finish machine recounts by a 3 p.m. Thursday deadline in his race and in the races for governor and agriculture commissioner.

In her order Tuesday, Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers said the Palm Beach County elections office is unique because of the age of its equipment, which can only conduct a recount of one race at a time.

Other counties can conduct machine recounts of more than one race simultaneously.

Gievers wrote that Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher appears likely to only complete a recount in a U.S. Senate race by 3 p.m. Thursday and won’t be able to finish recounts in the other races.

As a result, Gievers ordered suspension of deadlines for machine recounts and subsequent manual recounts if needed.

“No statute and no rule that the court could find addresses the situation which Supervisor Bucher faces here: how to timely complete the machine and manual recounts in four different contests with machines that can only do a recount of one contest at a time, when the statutory time seems to anticipate at most a recount in a single contest,” Gievers wrote.

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