California’s election recount policy will stay the same for the upcoming November election but the Peninsula lawmaker trying to change it vowed to try again after his bill stalled in the state Senate Friday.
The bill authored by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, proposed having the state foot the bill for election recounts triggered by very close races like that of the controller in the June primary. Mullin included an urgency clause with hopes of getting it in place before the fall election but that requires a two-thirds majority. The proposal found favor with Democrats but Senate Republicans did not provide the necessary votes needed to refer the bill to committee.
Mullin said the lack of immediate reform could mean a repeat performance of the controller’s race in which the third-place finisher’s call for a recount tied up some Southern California elections office and left results in limbo.
“It’s disappointing to see an opportunity to address a fundamental democratic principle like the election process denied this year for partisan reasons,” Mullin said in a prepared statement.
Mullin’s bill proposed a state-funded manual recount when the margin of victory for any state office or ballot measure is one-tenth of 1 percent. The cost was estimate at about $1.9 million per recount. Currently, a candidate seeking an election pay for the effort and choose which counties and in what order they want the manual tally done. The opponent can then do the same if votes are lost, hypothetically going back and forth until all votes are counted or money is exhausted.
Mullin announced plans for recount reform after state controller candidate John Perez, a termed-out Los Angeles assemblyman, launched a recount in the June primary race for state controller. Only 481 votes separated second-place finisher Betty T. Yee and Perez in third place. The two top vote-getters face off in November so the recount was to decide who would run against Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, who received the most votes. The recount began but Perez called it off after only acquiring a handful of new votes.
The recount “debacle” exposed serious flaws in the system and fixing it should be a bipartisan interest, Mullin said.
Mullin is not swayed from seeking to overhaul existing policy and said Friday he will introduce more comprehensive recount reform legislation on the first day of the next session in December. The upcoming bill will include the same automatic trigger for a statewide recount and address the process for presidential elections ahead of 2016. The bill will also expand audits to verify election results, according to Mullin’s office.
Because the new bill will not include an urgency clause, Mullin said he is optimistic it stands a better chance with only a simple majority threshold.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102