To hear Kevin Mullin tell it, this summer’s saga in the race for state controller was the first time even he — a sitting assemblymember — realized just how antiquated and unfair California election law is when it comes to recounting votes in razor-thin races. “That really opened my eyes to how undemocratic our process is and how potentially chaotic,” said Mullin (D-South San Francisco). On Thursday Mullin introduced legislation to create a process for an automatic statewide recount in California — something other states have, and something supporters say will make clear just how and when to tally votes a second time. “It strikes me as a fundamental fairness question,” Mullin said.
Mullin’s newly amended Assembly Bill 2194 would require an automatic recount of all ballots in a statewide race — including ballot measures — if the gap between winning and losing sides is less than one-tenth of one percent of the votes that each side received. In a June primary election, the automatic recount would apply to candidates who appear to have placed second and third … the third place vote-getter, of course, being the one who misses making the fall ballot under California’s top-two primary system.
Had AB 2194 been in effect this year, the margin between Betty Yee and John Pérez of 481 votes would have easily triggered an automatic recount, as would have happened for any gap smaller than 1,756 votes.
Data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures shows that 20 states plus the District of Columbia have some sort of automatic recount standard. But the threshold for a recount varies. Many base it on votes cast, while some like Michigan set a hard standard of races where the margin of victory is 2,000 votes or less.