The laws that govern general elections in Panama City, Florida, also apply to primary and special elections. According to the Florida Electoral Code, a manual recount is required for any election in which the initial margin of victory is 0.25 percent or less. In 2018, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced that the state would manually recount ballots in that year's elections. In a contested election, the difference between what judges accept based on their partisan preferences could be large enough to shape the outcome.
During a manual recount, election officials will re-examine any paper ballot that was initially set aside due to overvoting (votes for several candidates in a given contest) or undervoting (voting for none of the candidates in a given contest). The goal is to discern the voter's intent. Many states provide guidelines for determining voter intent in the case of a manual recount. For example, if a voter has marked two candidates for one office, but has also made a clear indication of which candidate they prefer, then that vote may be counted for the preferred candidate.
Similarly, if a voter has marked two candidates for one office but has not indicated which candidate they prefer, then that vote may not be counted. In some cases, it may be necessary to request a recount in order to determine the outcome of an election. To do so, an individual must file a petition with the circuit court in the county where the election was held. The petition must include the name of the candidate requesting the recount and must be signed by at least three registered voters from each precinct where the recount is requested. The petition must also include an affidavit stating why the recount is necessary. Once the petition is filed, the court will set a hearing date and notify all parties involved.
At the hearing, both sides will present their arguments and evidence as to why or why not a recount should be conducted. The court will then decide whether or not to order a recount.