Organization Suggests Best Practices for Election Recounts

Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota released a guide, “Recount Principles and Best Practices,” written by a bipartisan group that includes the Minnesota secretary of state and a former Washington secretary of state. Among other recommendations, the authors suggest a threshold for the vote margin that would trigger a taxpayer-funded recount.

Their review of state laws revealed that the margin of victory for initiating a publicly funded recount ranged from 0.1 percent to 0.5 percent of ballots cast, with an average of 0.4 percent. Other states base their triggers on a specific number of ballots rather than a percentage of the total, and when those numbers were converted to percentages, they ranged from 0.06 percent to 1 percent of all ballots.

The guide recommends setting the margin of victory necessary for a taxpayer-funded recount in congressional and statewide races well below the 0.4 percent average. For local and single-county recounts, however, a higher threshold would be appropriate.

Previous Pew research reviewed the costs incurred by local election offices for statewide recounts:

  • The 2008 U.S. Senate recount in Minnesota between Al Franken and Norm Coleman cost counties an estimated $460,000. The state reimbursed almost 20 percent of those expenses.
  • The 2004 gubernatorial recount in Washington cost counties approximately $1,160,000. The state reimbursed nearly 40 percent of the recount costs.

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