The Cost of Statewide Recounts: a Case Study of Minnesota and Washington

Nov 19, 2010

As part of its work to help build high-performing states, the Pew Center on the States commissioned a case study on two recent, high-profile statewide races that underwent recounts: the 2004 Washington state governor’s race and the 2008 Minnesota U.S. Senate race.

When close statewide elections trigger an automatic recount, headlines often focus on the horserace. But recounts are equally noteworthy for their price tag—especially when states and counties do not anticipate the costs.

The Reality of Recount Costs and Reimbursements

The study found that costs differed greatly depending on the state and local laws and regulations governing the recount process. In Minnesota, the study estimates that the manual recount cost counties, on average, more than 15 cents per ballot, with total costs surpassing $460,000.

In Washington, the manual recount cost counties an average of more than 30 cents per ballot, with total costs just over $900,000. Washington counties also spent more than $260,000 to conduct an initial machine recount, increasing total recount costs for local jurisdictions to over $1.16 million. This study provides valuable insights that can help states and localities identify opportunities to cut costs and optimize limited resources.

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