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.

Scott’s lead was 15,175 votes statewide as of 7:30 p.m. Thursday. That’s down from 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 still are more ballots to be counted, including provisional ballots and other ballots that were set aside because of anomalies on Tuesday. They are now being counted by the election canvassing boards in each of Florida’s 67 counties.

Historically, more mistakes are found during a hand recount, as opposed to a machine recount and, therefore, can more quickly change the total vote tally in a race, Nelson’s campaign is contending. Given the trend of newly discovered votes leaning in Nelson’s favor, a hand recount could soon put Nelson ahead in the race, his campaign predicted.

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