The fate of a South Florida congressional district will likely be decided Friday by a handful of overseas and military ballots after a manual recount left the race too close to call.
Businesswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick appears to hold a single-digit lead over Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness in the Democratic primary to replace the late US Rep. Alcee Hastings. The winner is heavily favored to win the January special election in the solidly blue district.
Canvassing boards in Palm Beach and Broward counties will meet Friday afternoon to manually count ballots that arrived by mail after Election Day from active military voters and Floridians who live overseas. Florida law allows a 10-day window after the election for overseas ballots to arrive as long as they are postmarked on or before Election Day.
As of Friday morning, there were 16 ballots to count in Broward County. Palm Beach County did not have any to count, but ballots can arrive as late as 5 p.m. Friday.
Broward election officials will also determine whether to count three ballots that were previously rejected over signature issues. On Friday morning, a judged rejected a lawsuit from Cherfilus-McCormick calling for those ballots to be tossed.
The debate over these three ballots has delayed Broward County from publicizing the results of its manual recount. Cherfilus-McCormick held a two-vote lead after a machine recount, according to vote tallies posted on the websites of the Broward and Palm Beach supervisors of elections. She gained one vote from Palm Beach County’s manual recount.
Cherfilus-McCormick and Holness emerged as the top voters in a crowded primary to replace Hastings, a civil rights icon and the state’s first Black federal judge who died in April at age 84. The race for the relatively safe blue seat that spans parts of Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach attracted 11 Democrats, including state Reps. Bobby Dubose and Omar Hardy.
The Hastings family endorsed Holness, but he was outspent 10 to 1 by the self-funded Cherfilus-McCormick, who pumped a staggering $3.7 million into her race. Cherfilus-McCormick had mounted unsuccessful primary challenges against Hastings for the seat in 2018 and 2020.
The winner will face Jason Mariner, who won the Republican primary earlier this month.
The special election will be held January 11. Florida Democrats have expressed displeasure at Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, for scheduling the election so far after Hastings’ death, leaving the majority Black district without representation for nine months.
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to specify which ballots can arrive for up to 10 days after Election Day.