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Once More, With Feeling

One candidate lost on Tuesday by 11 votes out of more than 10,000 cast. Others lost by fewer than 200 votes. Anyone up for a recount?

Al Edwards, Betty Brown

The post-election euphoria that infused Wednesday morning could be short-lived for a handful of candidates who, though victorious, won by margins narrow enough to prompt recount requests from their closest challenger.

According to the Texas Secretary of State's office, any race in which an electronic voting system was used may be subject to a recount. The federal Help America Vote Act mandates that every polling place make available at least one voting device accessible to persons with disabilities, which is often an electronic voting machine. Also triggering a recount: any race in which the margin of victory between the winner and loser is less than 10 percent of the votes the winner received.

After Tuesday’s primary election, there are a few close races in which a recount might be requested.

The closest thing to a sure bet would be in HD-146, where Al Edwards, D-Houston, lost his seat to former state Rep. Borris Miles (whom Edwards defeated in 2008). Miles leads by 11 votes out of 10,051 cast — a margin that is significantly less than 10 percent of his total. More like 1 percent.

Others who might invoke the less-than-10-percent option:

* Betty Brown, R-Terrell, who was beaten in HD-4 by her former aide Lance Gooden by 183 votes out of a total of 17,985 cast

* Jack Ballard, who lost by 311 votes out of 7,953 cast to Republican George Lavender in HD-1

* Bill Burch, whom Republican Barbara Nash upended in HD-93 by 112 votes out of 5,354 cast

* Don McLeroy, the former chairman and current member of the State Board of Education in District 9, who was defeated by challenger Thomas Ratliff by 860 votes out of 115,916 cast

* Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, who lost her SBOE 12 seat to challenger George Clayton by 2,644 votes out of 72,422 cast.

Then there's Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, who lost his HD-7 seat to David Simpson by 856 votes out of 14,848 cast. That's more than 10 percent of Simpson's total, but the electronic voting machine rule would be enough to allow Merritt to ask for a recount — assuming one was used.

The rules

Any candidate requesting a recount must keep in my mind that there are deadlines to follow and fees to pay.  For a statewide or district race, the deadline to request a recount is the second day after the final canvass. The Secretary of State's office instructs 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.

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.

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