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Why these key Florida and Georgia races haven’t been called

After Tuesday’s election, two key races are still too close to call. The high-profile Senate race between current Sen. Bill Nelson and outgoing Gov. Rick Scott is headed for a recount, while the contest for Georgia governor is still neck and neck between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp. Amna Nawaz gets analysis from Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times and Andra Gillespie of Emory University.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Colorado results are known, as you see, but there are still outstanding questions about some of last night's results.

    Amna Nawaz has that.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Let's take a deeper look now at two states with key races still too close to officially call.

    In Florida, the high-profile Senate race between current Democratic Senator Bill Nelson and outgoing Republican Governor Rick Scott is headed for a recount.

    And, in Georgia, the race for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp was still neck and neck.

    I'm joined by Adam Smith, political editor for The Tampa Bay Times, and Andra Gillespie, professor of political science at Emory University.

    Welcome to you both. Thank you for being here.

    And, Andra, I want to start with you. We should time-stamp this. We're talking about 5:00 Eastern the day after the election, of course.

    And I want to ask each of you just to give me sort of a quick update, because these are evolving races, on where things now — and we should start with a little bit of news, too, in Georgia. We have a spokesman for Brian Kemp's campaign now claiming victory, even though it hasn't been officially called.

    What's the latest on the race?

  • Andra Gillespie:

    So, as of about 2:30 this afternoon, all of the precincts had reported, and Brian Kemp had a lead of about 65,000 votes. So that's a margin of about 1.5 percentage points.

    Stacey Abrams hasn't conceded yet because she wants to make sure every that absentee vote and every provisional vote is counted. She's also claiming that there may be some absentee votes that are still in transit because they got rerouted during Hurricane Michael.

    So she wants to be sure that every vote is counted and that she has turned over every stone before she concedes the race.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Adam Smith, over to you now.

    A spokesman for Rick Scott has said, look, this race is over. Senator Nelson has not conceded, though. Where do we stand right now?

  • Adam Smith:

    Well, it doesn't even really matter if he has conceded yet. We have a law in Florida that if the race is within half-a-percentage point, there has to be an automatic machine recount, and that seems to be the case right now.

    Rick Scott leads by some — approaching 40,000 votes. And we still have, apparently, about 100,000 votes that haven't even been counted yet, most of them in South Florida.

    So we will have a better handle on it by Saturday. Those votes will have to be counted. Some of those are mail ballots that were turned in Election Day or provisional ballots. And then it's likely we will still be within a half-a-percentage point and there will be a machine recount.

    But we still could be looking at a couple of weeks more before we really know.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Let's take a step back, though.

    Andra, I want to talk back to you on this to talk about how we got here in the first place. This was going to be an uphill battle for Stacey Abrams anyway. It's a deep red state. There's a lot of history potentially to be made if she wins.

    Did you expect it to be this close going in?

  • Andra Gillespie:

    I actually did expect it to be this close.

    We have seen the margins for gubernatorial candidates shrink in the last few election cycles. So, whereas, a decade or more ago, you would have seen candidates, Republican candidates win by double-digit margins, those margins had started to narrow.

    So, in 2014, for instance, Jason Carter lost to Nathan Deal by about eight percentage points. Because of the heightened political polarization and Democratic enthusiasm and interest in this race, and also because of Stacey Abrams' efforts to grow the electorate, to reach out to new voters, and to deeply engage them and mobilize them to get them to turn out to vote, it was very likely that she was going to grow the Democratic base.

    And she made every effort to try to narrow that gap. So even if she does eventually lose this race, she does have to be credited for having gotten out as many Democratic votes as she did.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Adam Smith, what about you?

    Florida has a history of very close high-profile races. Did we think we'd end up here?

  • Adam Smith:

    Yes, I mean, Florida, it's just extraordinary. We're talking about a state with 13-plus million voters. And over and over and over again, we have these top-of-the-ballot races that come down to 1 percentage point. That's been the last three governor's races. That's this U.S. Senate race.

    That's the last couple presidential elections. And, lord knows, that's the 2000 recount. We are just an evenly divided state.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, you mentioned Saturday, we might know more, in the next few days.

    Adam, just stay with me here and give me the timeline very quickly moving forward. When could we have a result in this race?

  • Adam Smith:

    This is Florida. So that's always a mystery.


  • Adam Smith:

    But we should, by Saturday, know that whether we will have an automatic machine recount. Then you go — they put a lot of these ballots back through the machines, and then hopefully those machines counted reliably, and it's relatively stable with the old result.

    If it then gets to be a quarter-of-a-point difference between Nelson and Scott, then you go to a hand recount. And we're talking 67 counties. They would look — be looking at ballots were there were either no vote casts are counted for the Senate candidates or an overvote, where at least two votes were — where they were tossed out.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And, Andra Gillespie, it's worth reminding people this one contest was peppered with allegations of voter suppression. Brian Kemp, of course, secretary of state, was overseeing the same campaign — or, rather, the same contest that he was running in.

    Do we have any idea about whether or not that played a factor? And what happens next? Give me the timeline moving forward.

  • Andra Gillespie:

    Well, Stacey Abrams is going to wait to see if every vote is counted. Her team is also on the ground. And so they are collecting stories about voting irregularities.

    So there were some polls that had to stay open late because there were very few voting machines, where some people may have been discouraged from voting. And then also, given the specter of allegations, Abrams is likely to not back down until she has exhausted every recourse and made sure that everybody had a right to vote fairly and that the final vote count is a fair vote count.

    I don't think that her constituents and her supporters would probably take it very well if she conceded very quickly, without making sure that she exhausted every potential investigation and recourse.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Andra Gillespie of Emory University, Adam Smith at The Tampa Bay Times, good to talk to both of you.

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