Recount Procedures If Necessary In the Redlands City Council Election November 2016

People are asking about the recount procedure in the Redlands City Council Election.

California Elections Code section 15620 et seq. governs recounts requested by voters.  Any voter may file a request for a recount pursuant to Elections Code section 15620.  The request must be filed no later than five days after the completion of the official canvass.  The completion of the canvass occurs when the elections official signs the Certification of  Election Results.  Elections Code section 15620(c).

The request must be in writing, specify the contest to be recounted, and state on behalf of which candidate (in this case), slate of electors, or position on a measure it is filed.  Elections Code section 15620(a).  The request may specify the order in which precincts shall be recounted, it may specify the method of counting to be used, and any other relevant material to be examined.  Elections Code sections 15622, 15627, 15630. The choice of method is either a manual recount (as defined in section 15627), or  by means of the voting system used originally. Elections Code sections 15627(a).

When I observed the recount requested in the 2014 31st Congressional District, certain precincts (186 out of 477) thought to have anomalies were requested to be reviewed first in accordance with Elections Code section 15622.  When insufficient results were found, the recount was suspended.

If it is not a statewide measure, as this is not, the request needs to be filed with the county election official responsible for conducting the election, unless the City canvasses their own returns, which is not the case here.  Elections Code section 15620(a).

“Any time during the conduct of a recount and for 24 hours thereafter, any other voter may request the recount of any precincts in an election for the same office, slate of presidential electors, or measure not recounted as a result of the original request.”  Elections Code section 15623.

The election official will post a notice stating the date and place of the recount at least one day before the recount, and the candidates will be notified by overnight mail or personally.  Elections Code section 15628.

A recount is open to the public, and must start no later than seven days following the receipt of the request and shall be continued daily, except for Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays, for no less than six hours a day until completed.  Elections Code sections 15626, 15629.  A manual recount must be conducted under the supervision of the election official by recount boards, (each consisting of four San Bernardino County voters), appointed by the election official.  Elections Code section 15625.

While the recount is public (section 15629), No ballot can be touched “without the express consent of the elections official or the election officer supervising the special recount board.” Elections Code section 15630.

The regulations provide further details about observers and spokespeople:

“(a) Any person may observe the recount proceedings, subject to space limitations of the recount location selected by the elections official pursuant to section 20816.
(b) Upon request by the elections official, each interested party shall appoint one of his or her representatives to serve as a spokesperson authorized to make decisions with respect to the recount on behalf of the interested party, or the interested party may serve as his or her own spokesperson. When accompanied by an elections official or his or her designee, the spokesperson shall have access to all areas where ballots are recounted by hand or tabulated by machine.
(c) Questions other than ballot challenges shall be routed through the spokesperson, who shall then direct the question to the elections official or his or her designee. Official discussions with any interested party concerning resolution of questions shall include each interested party or his or her spokesperson.
(d) The elections official may require any requestor, interested party, representative, or observer of the recount proceedings to log in and receive an identification badge before entering the recount location. If required, identification badges shall be worn at all times and returned to the elections official at the end of the day.
(e) Requestors, interested parties, representatives, and observers shall not interfere in any way with the conduct of the recount, touch any voting system components, ballots, tally sheets or other special recount board materials, sit at the official recount worktables, place any material on the official recount worktables, talk to members of the special recount boards or supervisors while they are processing ballots or other recount materials or assist in recount procedures.
(f) The elections official may deny entry to the recount location to any person who fails to comply with the requirements of this section.” 2 CCR section 20820.

The procedure for challenging a ballot is that the person challenging the ballot states a reason, the person counting the ballot shall “count it as he or she believes proper and then set it aside with a notation as to how it was counted” and the “elections official shall, before the recount is completed, determine whether the challenge is to be allowed. The decision of the elections official is final.” Elections Code section 15631.

The Code of Regulations provides further detail:

“(a) A challenged ballot shall be set aside with a notation indicating the precinct number, the method by which it was originally counted for the official canvass, e.g., direct recording electronic voting system, scanner or hand count, the challenge number assigned to the ballot, the reason for the challenge, and the identity of the person making the challenge.
(1) A ballot that was counted in the official canvass, including a counted vote by mail or provisional ballot, may be challenged only on grounds of disqualifying distinguishing marks or some other grounds visible on the face of the ballot so that the ballot can be isolated and removed from the count if the elections official determines that the ballot was not properly cast.
(2) A voted ballot that was not counted in the official canvass, including a rejected unopened vote by mail or provisional ballot, may be challenged and added to the count if the elections official determines that the ballot was properly cast.
(b) Resolution of challenged ballots shall take place in a segregated area within the recount location, separate from that being used to perform the recount, as determined by the elections official, to avoid confusion and mixing of ballots.
(c) Challenges shall be resolved each day after all special recount boards complete their work, or more often if necessary, as determined by the elections official, but in any event before the conclusion of all recount proceedings. The determination of the elections official on a challenge shall be final. The elections official shall maintain a record of each challenge and the determination on each challenge.” 2 CCR section 20823.

Every vote in every precinct must be recounted, or the results are null and void, and if a different candidate wins, the results of the official canvass will be changed.  Elections Code section 15632.  A copy of the results shall be posted conspicuously in the office of the election official.  Elections Code section 15633.

Manual recounts have this procedure:

“(a) One of the four special recount board members shall read the ballot and call out the vote cast for the contest subject to recount on that ballot; one shall observe that the correct call was made, and two members shall each separately and independently record the votes as called out.
(b) Prior to beginning the actual manual recount, the elections official shall instruct all members of the special recount boards, requestor, interested parties, representatives and observers on the procedures to be followed for the recount and shall provide them with copies of these recount regulations, any local documentation concerning recount procedure, and documentation on how to interpret and read the votes cast on the ballot, consistent with federal and state law and the State Uniform Vote Count Standards. The instructions and documentation shall include a statement that in the event of a challenge, the determination of the elections official shall be final.
(c) Vote by mail and early-voted ballots cast from a precinct subject to recount shall be tabulated separately from ballots cast in a polling place on Election Day.” 2 CCR section 20831.
Since the Redlands Municipal Election was a “vote for multiple” election, if a manual recount is requested, the following procedure applies:

“Manual recount tabulation on a voting system in a “Vote for Multiple” contest is subject to the following requirements:

(a) Prior to counting the ballots for the contest subject to recount, and in the clear view of the requestor, spokespersons and observers, all ballots for the precinct shall be separated into stacks that do and do not contain the contest. Those that contain the contest shall be sorted as follows:
(1) Ballots that were not voted for the contest (under-voted);
(2) Ballots that were over-voted for the contest;
(3) Ballots indicating a vote for the first candidate listed on the ballot for the contest; and
(4) Ballots that do not indicate a vote for the first candidate listed on the ballot for the contest.
(b) Starting with the voted ballots, one member of the special recount board shall state the candidate or position for which the vote was cast making sure the requestor, interested parties and their representatives can observe the contest subject to recount.
(c) After the vote is stated and counted, the counted ballot shall be placed on the table, with the counted ballots placed in stacks of 10 (or 25).
(d) Two members of the special recount board shall record the votes stated, marking hashes in succession on their individual tally sheets. Each of these two board members shall announce when he or she has counted 10 (or 25) votes. If both members call out 10 (or 25) counted votes at the same time, the tally shall continue forward for the next 10 (or 25) ballots. If both recorders do not reach 10 (or 25) additional votes on the same ballot, then the count for the last interval of 10 (or 25) ballots shall be stricken from their tally sheets and those ballots recounted.
(e) A requestor or an authorized spokesperson may request to inspect any ballot. Tallying shall be halted while the ballot is presented to the requestor or spokesperson for closer inspection. At no time may any requestor or spokesperson touch or come into physical contact with any of the ballots. Tallying will resume once the inspection is completed, which the requestor or spokesperson shall complete in a reasonable amount of time.
(f) Once all the votes for the first candidate have been recorded, the valid voted ballots shall be resorted into two stacks:
(1) Ballots that were voted for the second candidate in the contest; and
(2) Ballots that do not indicate a vote for the second candidate in the contest.
The ballots voted for the second candidate shall be calculated in accordance with (b) through (e) above. Tallying shall continue in this manner, until the votes for each candidate in the contest have been recounted and tallied.
(g) After all voted ballots have been counted and tallied, the two special recount board members who have been recording the votes will each independently calculate the total votes for each candidate or position on their tally sheets. When both have completed totaling, they will each announce their totals one candidate or vote position at a time. If both announce the identical vote total for each candidate or position in the recounted contest, the recount of that precinct shall be deemed complete and the results reported to the elections official. If the special recount board members announce different vote totals for any candidate or vote position in the recounted contest, the recount tallies recorded and announced will be examined. If the difference can be explained by the special recount board or supervisor, or by the elections official or his or her designee, it shall be corrected on the tally sheet. A written explanation shall be made on an attachment to the tally sheet. In the event of an unexplained discrepancy, the results for that precinct shall be discarded and the recount of that precinct will start over.” 2 CCR section 20833.

There is a cost associated with a recount, and the amount for this Redlands Municipal Election recount, should it occur, will depend on a variety of factors.  The election official determines the amount of the deposit necessary to cover the costs of the recount for each day.  The voter filling the request must deposit, before the start of the recount and at the beginning of each day, the amounts to cover the cost of each day.  If the results are reversed, the deposit must be returned.  Elections Code section 15624.

How much will the recount be, if one is requested?  San Bernardino County does not give the typical fees, but the Lesli Gooch recount (which was a manual recount) was $6,300 for one day which changed one vote:

A City Council election in Victorville in 2014 with an 12 vote discrepancy would have cost $4,400 a day.

The estimated cost of a recount in the 8th Congressional District in 2012 was “$11,335 for the first day’s recount. [The requestor] will pay roughly $6,000 for each day after that.”

A 23 vote differential in a Hesperia Unified School District election had an estimated $8,000 per day recount cost.

There is also an automatic manual recount (countywide) established by Election Code section 15360.  By law, a random sample of ballots from every election must be recounted manually to verify the computer count.  A minimum of one percent of all votes cast is included in the process.  This must occur before the election is certified.  The automatic manual recount is open to the public.  A court explained it like this:

“1 percent manual tally” is a procedure used in California to test whether there are any discrepancies between the electronic record generated by a voting machine and what is essentially a manual auditof that electronic record. Essentially, after each election, the “official conducting the election” is to conduct a “public manual tally of the ballots tabulated” by any voting machines “cast in 1 percent of the precincts chosen at random by the elections official.” (§ 15360.)  Nguyen v. Nguyen (2008) 158 Cal.App.4th 1636, 1643.

There are court challenges available after the recount, but since the recount in this case is mere speculation, they will be discussed at a later time.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Michael Reiter is a partner with Cole Huber LLP
2855 E. Guasti Road, Suite 402
Ontario, CA 91761

About Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law
Michael Reiter is a Redlands, California-based lawyer, serving San Bernardino County and Riverside County in Southern California's Inland Empire. Michael Reiter is a lawyer practicing in the following fields of law: Municipal Law, Code Enforcement Law, Small Business Law and Real Estate Law. Michael Reiter practices in all the local courts, including San Bernardino Superior Court, Riverside Superior Court, and the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Michael Reiter was admitted to the California State Bar in 1998. Michael Reiter was Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands, a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, and Staff Attorney for Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino. Michael Reiter serves all of San Bernardino and Riverside County, Orange County, and Los Angeles County. Michael Reiter can be reached at (909) 296-6708, or by electronic mail at 300 E. State St. #517 Redlands CA 92373-5235

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