ATLANTA — Two days after Election Day, the 31 million residents of Georgia and Florida still could not say for sure who had won three of their marquee political contests. Razor-thin and shrinking leads in the vote tallies on Thursday unleashed hordes of lawyers, talk of recounts and runoffs, and the kind of bickering over ballots that brought back memories of the 2000 presidential contest.
The two states’ races for governor and Florida’s Senate race hung in the balance, and the stress was palpable for politicians and voters alike.
Officials were still counting absentee, provisional and overseas ballots, and the partisan camps were disputing how to go about it and whether those votes could still change the outcome — even in the race between Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum for governor of Florida, which Mr. DeSantis seemed on Tuesday night to have won.
“When I saw Gillum concede, I started screaming to myself, ‘No! It’s Florida! Let them do a recount!’” said Sherry Shepard, 44, a real estate agent from Miami Gardens, Fla.
Though she is a Republican, Ms. Shepard said she voted for Mr. Gillum, a Democrat, to protest the angry rhetoric of her party’s candidate, Mr. DeSantis, a congressman who allied himself with President Trump. She described the two days since then as a roller coaster of emotions.
“I am trying to figure out what happened, and honestly, I am suspicious of what might have happened,” she said. “I have gone from hopeful to completely disappointed, to wait-and-see to back to hopeful.”
Mr. Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, conceded shortly before The Associated Press called the race for Mr. DeSantis on Tuesday night, when he was ahead by more than a percentage point. But the margin of victory has since shrunk to 0.44 points — small enough to require a machine recount under Florida law — and there were still ballots to count.
In Florida’s Senate race, just 15,175 votes were separating the front-runner, Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, from the Democratic incumbent, Senator Bill Nelson, on Thursday evening, out of more than eight million cast. At just 0.18 percentage points, Mr. Scott’s margin had become so narrow that a more thorough manual recount is required.
That probably means hand-to-hand legal squabbling over individual paper ballots, and the strongest flashbacks to the surreal legal melee over Florida’s presidential votes in 2000.