District 7: Recount Effort Moving Forward; Cost Estimate Could Be Generated Today

And a manual recount! Ah, ah, ah...
The process of initiating a recount in the wafer-thin District 7 supervisoral contest is moving forward, as election lawyer Jim Sutton has sent the city a letter listing the things he'd like counted, how he'd like them counted, and requesting the city count up how much this is all going to cost.

Sutton -- representing District 7 resident Linda Plack, who is in turn backed by a consortium of union and labor organizations who are supporting runner-up F.X. Crowley -- is remarkably specific in his three-page letter. As we noted yesterday, ordering up a recount is a bit like pricing out the options on a car; the more you want the more it'll run.

See Also: Prior District 7 Coverage

First, Sutton wants a total machine recount of all the ballots cast -- but not on the precincts' ballot-counting machines, but the "high-speed 400C ballot-counting machines contained at City Hall." Then he'd like a precinct-by-precinct statement of vote, the ranked-choice voting (RCV) ballot image, and the RCV paper report. But we're just getting started.

In addition to a machine count, Sutton is hoping for a manual count in 10 individual precincts. He'd also like a manual RCV tabulation for each precinct as well as a "manual tabulation for the results of the 10 precincts as a whole."

He'd like the opportunity to review disqualified absentee and provisional ballots from these 10 precincts, and a copy of the Department of Elections' standards in qualifying such ballots, as well as procedures for ballots with "stray marks, erasures, etc."

Finally, Sutton desires an explanation as to why "such a high percentage of absentee ballots were turned in on election day" in precincts 7711, 7712, and 9755.

Before getting started, however, Sutton wants a cost estimate for this endeavor, broken down, naturally, into six parts:

  • The cost of gathering all the ballots and getting prepared;

  • The cost of a machine recount;

  • The cost of a manual recount in 10 precincts;

  • The cost of conducting a manual RCV tally in 10 precincts;

  • The cost of conducting a manual recount of all ballots cast in District 7;

  • The cost of conducting a district-wide manual RCV tally;

  • Power windows (just kidding).

Finally, Sutton requests that if the Department of Elections' cost estimate falls short, it not request "any supplemental amounts." Election head John Arntz yesterday wrote back that he'd start tallying the costs -- but noted "I do not recall stating during our meeting [Wednesday] that the Department would forgo any costs associated with this recount."

Arntz tells SF Weekly the estimate may be ready as soon as today -- though, per his letter to Sutton, "if necessary, [we] will follow up with you regarding any costs not initially included in any estimate for payment."

Crowley lost by just 132 votes to Norman Yee -- a margin of 0.54 percent. Other states have laws about mandatory recounts for statewide elections decided by less than 0.5 percent of the vote -- but California does not. Arntz is unaware of any cities having such a requirement.

The department director earlier speculated that a recount might run $5,000 a day for an undetermined number of days. The Labor Council told the Chronicle it might cost upwards of $200,000.

Those costs will soon become clearer. But, no matter what the final bill, it promises to be an expensive, arduous, and much-scrutinized process. Count on it.

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They still have an opportunity to request the quickest way to manually count whether the winner would likely change, which would be to recount the ballots just for the final round between Yee and Crowley.  Thousands of votes would have to change to get anyone else into the final round, so focus on what really matters: whether the 132 vote gap can be closed in the final count between the top two candidates.  

They could try that for the ten or so precincts that they think are most likely to yield changes.  If that doesn't yield much of a net gain, everyone can go home confident that the certified results gave the right winner and they'll still have an almost full wallet.

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