The U.S. Senate election’s numbers have tightened to the point that the question of who won — Republican Gov. Rick Scott or Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson — apparently now will go to a mandatory hand recount of all 8.1 million ballots, according to updates posted late Thursday by the Florida Secretary of State.

As of late Thursday, Scott’s lead was 17,355 votes statewide. That’s down from the more than 60,000 two days ago that separated the two.

Under Florida law, a recount by hand is required when the difference reaches one-quarter of 1 percent of the vote, or about 20,413 ballots in this contest.

If the contest’s spread remains below that level, the hand recount would be announced on Saturday by Secretary of State Ken Detzner, and hand recounting would start on Monday and run through Nov. 18.

It’s not clear, however, that that many ballots could be recounted by hand in that relatively short a time.

If the difference falls between that and about 40,426, then Detzner would order a machine recount of the ballots. That also would start Monday, and would have to be finished by next Thursday.

There

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