Capitol Alert

Assemblyman plans to introduce California recount overhaul measure

Assemblyman Kevin Mullin said he plans to introduce legislation next month to overhaul California’s recount laws, with the goal of preventing a repeat of the increasingly acrimonious recount underway in the state controller’s race.

Mullin, D-San Mateo, said his office is researching “a variety of options” to put forward after lawmakers return from their summer recess Aug. 4. Proposals could include having the state pay for recounts, standardizing counties’ recount policies, or having a law that triggers a recount in very close races, Mullin said in a statement.

“California is in uncharted territory with the Controller’s race recount,” Mullin said. “It’s imperative to our system of governance that the election process is fair and transparent for all voters and candidates.”

In election results certified last week, Board of Equalization member Betty Yee claimed second place by 481 votes over Assemblyman John A. Pérez in the June 3 controller’s primary. Pérez has requested hand recounts in all or parts of 15 counties. Fifth on the list is Mullin’s home county, San Mateo, where Pérez seeks hand recounts in 247 of 350 precincts.

State and national groups have criticized the state’s recount laws in recent days. Unlike any other state, California allow a voter to pay for hand or machine recounts in particular areas. A rival can counter with recounts in other places, and so on. Counties, meanwhile, set their own recount price schedules, with some much more expensive than others. Critics say the law virtually ensures court fights and tainted outcomes.

“When the recount process is necessary, it should be easily implemented and every vote valued and counted equally,” Mullin said.

But any legislation calling for taxpayer-funded recounts will face questions about cost, with a statewide hand recount of California’s more than 20,000 precincts costing an estimated $3 million. Mullin’s move would mark the first legislative attempt to revamp the state’s recount process, even though there have been targeted recounts in local, legislative and congressional races.

The recount in the controller’s race continued Wednesday in Kern and Imperial counties. Pérez has picked up a handful of votes so far.