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2010: What's the Deal with Recounts?

Some losing candidates in today's primary election could have one last chance to win — provided they meet one of three criteria.

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It can be tedious and costly, but some losing candidates in today's primary election actually have one last chance to win, sort of: They can ask for a recount of the ballots cast, provided they meet one of three criteria.

According to the office of the Texas Secretary of State, if a district or statewide election employed the use of an electronic voting system, a candidate may request a recount. The Help America Vote Act mandates that every polling site have at least one accessible voting system for persons with disabilities, often times an electronic voting machine equipped for persons with visual or hearing disabilities. If even one electronic voting machine was used, that's enough to trigger to recount option.

A recount may also be requested if the difference between the winner and second-highest vote-getter is less than 10% of the votes the winning candidate received (got that?), or if the total number of votes received by every candidate amounts to less than 1,000.

The most common request usually comes from a candidate in a race in which several names are on the ballot and the margin of victory is too close for comfort for the loser. 

In some races the recount could be expensive. The requester must leave a deposit, and laws enacted in 2009 changed how that's calculated. The amount of the deposit is based on the number of precincts involved in the election. For each precinct that used regular paper ballots, the requester must pay $60 plus an additional $100 for each precinct in which electronic voting systems were used. If after the recount there is no reversal, the candidate must pay for its cost. If the outcome changes and a new winner is declared, the deposit is returned.

Automatic recounts, though rare, are possible. If two or more candidates tie for the highest or second-highest number of votes, an automatic recount in called for.

Deadlines are also in effect. If there are only two candidates in a county or precinct race, the filing deadline is March 15, the Monday after the local canvass. For a statewide or district race, the deadline is the second day after the final canvass. The Secretary of State office says the state canvass must be conducted no later than Sunday, March 14, for all races with potential runoffs (three or more candidates), while the state canvass for the remaining offices must be completed by March 24.

There are also expedited procedures in place for races in which there is the possibility of a runoff. In a statewide, district, county, or precinct-level race, the deadline to file a recount request is 2:00 p.m. of the first day after the local canvass. In these circumstances the deadline for an expedited recount of state and district offices is determined by the date of the local canvass, not the state’s, says the SOS. The filing authority for a statewide or district office is the state chair. For a county or precinct office, it’s the county chair.

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