Capitol Alert

Lawmaker proposes to revamp California recount rules

Observers watch Kern County elections worker Micah Kagler, seated, second from left, read a ballot during the recount in the California controller’s race last summer. The recount ended after about a week. (AP Photo/The Bakersfield Californian, Felix Adamo)
Observers watch Kern County elections worker Micah Kagler, seated, second from left, read a ballot during the recount in the California controller’s race last summer. The recount ended after about a week. (AP Photo/The Bakersfield Californian, Felix Adamo) AP

Assemblyman Kevin Mullin said Friday he will introduce another bill requiring automatic recounts in extremely close statewide races, citing the confusion and discord during last summer’s brief recount in the June primary for state controller.

Mullin, D-South San Francisco, carried legislation last August that would have required automatic recounts in any statewide race where the margin of victory is one-tenth of one percent or less. The bill, though, stalled in the state Senate after bogging down in partisan fighting.

In a press release, Mullin said he will introduce another recount proposal Monday. It would require a state-funded hand recount for any statewide race where the margin of victory is one-tenth of one percent or less and would take effect for the 2016 elections.

“The need to update our existing recount system was front and center during the recount initiated during the 2014 State Controller’s primary race,” Mullin said in the statement. “We have overwhelming indications that the current system is flawed and potentially favors the candidate with the most money to pay for it.”

Under California law, any voter can request a recount in places of their choosing as long as they pay for it. If the recount changes the outcome, then another voter can request a recount in places of their choosing. Critics say the rules encourage recount cherry-picking and put the final results in doubt.

In the June controller’s race, Board of Equalization member Betty Yee finished in second place, 481 votes ahead of fellow Democrat Assemblyman John A. Pérez. Perez requested a hand recount for all or some precincts in 15 counties where he had done well. He called off the recount after about a week.

Mullin’s bill would not apply to legislative or congressional contests. The closest finish in a race on the Nov. 4 ballot was in the 39th Assembly District where only 466 votes – 1 percent of total votes cast, or ten times the margin in Mullin’s proposed bill – separated winner Patty Lopez, D-San Fernando, from Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Los Angeles.

Call Jim Miller, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5521. Follow him on Twitter @jimmiller2.

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