Here in King County we’ve had a number of close elections in recent years – a Seattle City Council race decided by just 39 votes, a Des Moines City Council race won by 31. With the tight races in this Primary you might be wondering – what triggers an automatic recount?
First, it’s important to know that there are two different types of recounts:
- Machine recounts – in which all ballots for that race are re-scanned and re-tabulated electronically; and,
- Manual recounts – in which all ballots for that race are counted by hand.
And there are different thresholds for each, as well as different thresholds for the type of race.
Ok, it’s time for some math.
For all local, regional and statewide races, a machine recount is triggered if the gap is fewer than 2,000 votes AND less than 0.5% of the total votes cast for both candidates. So, for example,
- If Candidate A gets 11,000 votes and Candidate B gets 10,500 votes, there would not be a recount because the gap of 500 votes is greater than .005 x 21,500 (which equals 108).
For statewide races and measures (think Governor, Attorney General, statewide initiatives), a manual recount is triggered if there is a difference of fewer than 1,000 votes AND less than 0.25% of the total votes cast for both candidates. So, for example,
- If YES on Initiative X gets 800,000 votes and NO gets 799,100 votes, there would be a recount because 900 votes in both less than 1,000 and less than .0025 x 1,599,200 (which equals 3,998).
Finally, for regional and local races (think state senate, city council and county propositions), a manual recount is triggered if there is a difference of fewer than 150 votes AND less than 0.25% of the total votes cast for both candidates. So, for example,
- If Candidate X gets 29,000 votes and Candidate Y gets 28,700 votes, there would not be a manual recount because 300 votes is more than 150 and more than 0.25% (.0025 x 57,700 or 145 votes).
Totally simple and straightforward, right? If not, don’t worry – King County Elections has you covered. We’ll keep you updated on all the Primary contest results and you can learn more about recounts on our Elections website, or here at the Secretary of State’s website.