San Jose Councilwoman Sylvia Arenas was sworn in to the District 8 seat this past weekend, but the vote tallying isn’t over yet. Her opponent, Jimmy Nguyen, wants to pay out of pocket for another, more detailed recount.
The latest reckoning began this morning, according to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters Office (ROV), and it could cost Nguyen up to $8,000 a day. State law requires the person requesting a recount to pay up front before each day of the tally. But Nguyen says he can use his leftover campaign cash to pick up the tab.
Nguyen, who lost by less than 100 votes, will have the option of stopping the recount at any time. Among several other factors, the cost depends on how many elections workers he wants on the job.
On day one, Nguyen shelled out $1,600, according to ROV spokeswoman Anita Torres. He opted for a pretty minimal staff of four people at one workstation. The ROV allows each candidate to bring two observers to watch the process. Today, Arenas and Nguyen each brought two volunteers to keep an eye on things.
The most expensive option, Torres said, would last about 80 hours, or 10 days, and rack up a $32,918 tab for Nguyen. Click here to see the cost estimates the ROV sent to county officials this week.
County recounts are triggered when two candidates finish within a half-percentage point of each other and involve a manual tally of ballots that were already machine-counted.
Voter-initiated counts, on the other hand, tend to be more granular than the county’s automatic do-over. They also allow the candidates to contest the status of provisional and mail-in ballots that were rejected in the initial canvass.
This is the first year the county has conducted the automatic recounts, which are not required under state law. The Board of Supervisors voted to roll out a pilot program that triggers the recounts in close races.
June’s primary election resulted in the first such automatic recount when then-San Jose Councilman Manh Nguyen finished behind Lan Diep and challenged the results. The District 4 incumbent opted to pay out of pocket for another crack at the tally, but still finished behind Diep, who assumes his post on the council next month.
Ten contests in the Nov. 8 election were close enough to prompt automatic recounts. Seven of those recounts have yet to be finished. Why the delay?
“It was such an unprecedented number of recounts,” Torres said. “Everything was record-setting, [including] the number of people who voted, then there was the length of the ballot card, which was very long. It was a lot of things all at once.”
Elections workers are processing a million ballots. The count is done, Torres said. The next step is to finish an audit that involves matching recount results to the machine and hand tallies.
Certified results for the November election were posted Dec. 8, per state law. Unless Nguyen’s redux changes the outcome, the results will remain as posted, with Arenas holding a narrow 87-vote lead.
To view the certified results, click here.