Election officials across California on Monday began preparing for a historically large hand recount in the state controller’s race amid uncertainty about how to coordinate an effort involving thousands of precincts in 15 counties. During a normally slow time on the election calendar, counties were calling back employees from vacation, getting in touch with potential members of recount boards and studying the finer points of the state’s recount laws. The activity began after former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez filed papers Sunday seeking manual recounts in 15 counties where he ran well against Board of Equalization member and fellow Democrat Betty Yee. “There are more questions right now than answers,” said Michael Scarpello, registrar of voters in San Bernardino County, where the Pérez campaign seeks recounts in 495 of the county’s nearly 1,700 precincts.
Pérez is seeking the right to face the top vote-getter, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, in the November general election for the controller’s post. Often viewed as the state’s chief financial officer, the controller runs the state’s payroll and manages its cash flow, among other fiscal management duties.
In the six-candidate controller’s field, Yee leads Pérez by 481 votes out of more than 4 million cast, a margin of one-hundredth of a percent. Only four other statewide votes in the U.S. since 2000 have had as close a margin, with subsequent recounts reversing the Election Day outcome in two of them.