Florida faces third recount in fewer than 20 years

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Florida election results, on the verge of being recounted, are likely to become the third time the recount system has been tested in Florida on a broad scale.

The first was in 2006, in Sarasota. 

Republican Vern Buchanan won his first term in Congress, over Christine Jennings, 119,309 to 118,940.

That was when we were voting on touch-screen machines that spit out only paper totals.

Under this system, when a voter left blank their vote in any given race - also known as an undervote - that ballot was impossible to inspect. That made Democratic claims of 18,000 undervotes impossible to prove.

In 2006, Democrats claimed machine malfunctions in Sarasota County were to blame for the undervotes, but the state insisted two tests showed there was no malfunction. 

There were eventually two recounts, which consisted only of re-tallying precinct totals. The margin of 369 for Buchanan remained.

"This election is being hijacked by special interest groups from around the country, high-priced lawyers, who want to steal this race," Buchanan said in 2006.

But that was not Florida's first or most notable recount debacle. Florida had an even bigger dose of lawyers, and attention, when the leader of the free world was decided by 537 votes in 2000.

That time, voters punched holes in paper ballots, but sometimes the punch did not go all the way through. Or it appeared to punch between candidates, or even on the wrong candidate. 

That year, conservative Pat Buchanan got his most votes in liberal Palm Beach County. 

A machine recount dropped the margin between George W. Bush and Al Gore to 327. 

A request from Gore to hand recount ballots in four counties was approved by the state supreme court., but in a 5-4 decision, the US Supreme Court shut the counting down.

Bush won and the course of world history was set.

Now, facing a third round of recounts in fewer than 20 years, Florida counties will inspect a third kind of ballot - scan cards filled out by voters - to determine the final tally. The timeline for the possible recounts has yet to be determined.