District 7: Cost Unclear on Recount

One-hundred thirty two votes, ah, ah, ah!
A consortium of labor groups this week moved to ask for -- and fund -- a recount in the razor-thin loss of labor leader F.X. Crowley in the District 7 race.

This move was not unanticipated. But its cost remains uncertain. The San Francisco Labor Council was quoted as estimating a price tag exceeding $200,000, while Department of Elections Chairman John Arntz mentioned the tally of $5,000 a day. These numbers don't appear to jibe; a 40-day recount would be the electoral equivalent of the deluge.

Arntz yesterday told SF Weekly that he has no clue where the $200,000 figure came from, but said $5,000 a day is a good starting estimate "depending on what you want." (Recounts, like automobile models, apparently grow more expensive when more features are desired).

Arntz met Tuesday with election attorney Jim Sutton, who represents the potential recount backers. Neither Arntz nor Sutton has returned messages today.

The department head said the $5,000-a-day cost was based on how many people would be involved in the recount -- but declined to estimate how many people would be involved in the recount.

Crowley lost by just 132 votes to Norman Yee -- a margin of 0.54 percent. That's close -- but greater than the 0.5 percent threshold that often triggers recounts. In 2001, Mabel Teng couldn't overcome even a 39-vote differential to eventual District 7 winner Tony Hall.

That manual recount, funded by the San Francisco Neighbors Association, Warren Hellman, and others, cost an estimated $22,000. If District 7 recount in 2012 costs far more than that, the automotive parallel will be apt. Things start getting expensive when computers are involved.

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The more apt automotive parallel is that two cars cost more than one.  There were nearly twice as many ballots cast in this year's District 7 race than in the 2000 runoff that was recounted.

And for the 2000 runoff, after all that recounting, Mabel Teng closed the gap by exactly one vote, losing finally by 38 votes instead of 39.

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