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Recount expected in tight Congressional District 20 Democratic primary election

12 votes separate Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Dale Holness
Posted at 12:34 PM, Nov 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-04 18:53:31-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Palm Beach County Canvassing Board met Thursday to canvass ballots for Tuesday's tight election race to fill the vacant seat for Congressional District 20.

Tabulating a small number of military overseas and canvassing mail-in ballots is the last step in the certification procession. The primary election's first unofficial results will be sent to the state Friday.

The candidates are vying to fill the seat of late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, who was first elected to Congress in 1992. Hastings died of pancreatic cancer in April.

Jason Mariner is the projected winner of the Republican primary, defeating Greg Musselwhite, who unsuccessfully challenged Hastings in the 2020 general election.

Jason Mariner campaign photo
Jason Mariner is the presumptive Republican nominee in Florida's 20th Congressional District.

A much tighter race is occurring for the Democratic nomination.

As of Thursday, Dale Holness had 11,644 votes to Shelia Cherfilus-McCormick's 11,632 -- a difference of just 12 votes -- in unofficial results posted on the election websites of Broward and Palm Beach counties.

The canvassing board is processing two military and overseas ballots that were sent in and 29 signature cure affidavits.

The supervisor of elections contacted each elections office to find out if any other signature cures were turned in by 5 p.m.

This is the last step before the canvassing board certifies the election and the first unofficial primary election results are sent to Tallahassee.

Dale Holness and Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick top vote-getters in Democratic primary
Dale Holness and Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick were the top vote-getters in the Democratic primary for Florida's 20th Congressional District.

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link said once the first unofficial results are sent to the state, a determination will be made on the next step for that race.

"Broward [County] will do the same ... and once they've looked at both, they make the determination that it's within the recount percentage and they'll send us an order, ordering us to do a recount, which will begin tomorrow," Sartory Link said.

Under state law, races that are within a vote margin of 0.5 percentage points or less trigger an automatic machine recount. Any margin of 0.25 points or less requires a hand recount.

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link
Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link speaks on Nov. 4, 2021, about the process of certifying election results.

"The election in the Democratic primary for that election is too close to call, which may trigger a recount," said Sartory Link said.

Holness is a Broward County commissioner who was served on the commission since 2010. Cherfilus-McCormick is the CEO of Trinity Health Care Services.

The winner will take on Mariner in the Jan. 11 general election.

Sartory Link said about 17,000 Palm Beach County voters cast their ballot either by mail, early or on Election Day at the polls, which also included a municipal election in Highland Beach.