DENVER (KDVR) — Election rules can be convoluted and hard to follow, but there is a blueprint every county needs to follow when going through the recount process.
On Thursday, the statewide secretary of state recount requested by embattled Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters showed no change in the outcome. Peters gained 13 votes in the process, but so did Republican nominee Pam Anderson. Peters still trailed by more than 88,000 votes.
“There are two ways to trigger a recount,” said Matt Crane, executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association. “The first way a recount can be triggered is that if the margin in the race, in a particular contest, is close, then it will trigger an automatic, a mandatory recount that is paid for by the state or the county.”
That recount is triggered if a candidate is within 0.5% of the winning candidate. If that isn’t the case, a candidate can request a recount if that candidate supplies the money it would take to conduct the recount. Those expenses are for things like paying the employees and bipartisan election judges that oversee the process.
Recount logic and accuracy test
According to state law, each Colorado county must run what’s called a logic and accuracy test before any recount to make sure the machines work properly.
“You have a test board that comes in, they will mark ballots, and they have to make sure that they account for marks for each candidate: undervotes, overvotes, that type of thing,” Crane said. “In a regular election where voters may use one of our accessible ballot-marking devices, they have to test the audio features on those devices, so it’s really an all-encompassing test to make sure the voting system is working as it should.”
Crane said all 64 counties passed this test ahead of the recount for the Republican primary for secretary of state.
If there are no major discrepancies, per state law, the recount “may be conducted in the same manner as the original ballot count.”
When are hand recounts required in Colorado?
For the recount process, Peters requested a hand recount in each county, but according to Crane, she can’t demand that under the law.
“In Colorado, I think we have just one county that hand counts ballots during a normal election,” Crane said. “All the other counties use electronic tabulation systems.”
Colorado election rules say the recount “must be conducted in the same manner as the ballots were counted in the election.” Crane said this concept has been in place for roughly a decade and was clarified during the tenure of Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler.
There is only one way to trigger a hand recount under the law.
“If during the course of a logic and accuracy test for the recount, a county using an electronic tabulation system fails that test, then they would have to count the ballots by hand,” Crane said.
Election rules vs. election law
Election laws are passed through the state legislature under Title 1, whereas election rules are promulgated by the secretary of state.
“The secretaries of state put these in to fill in gaps, or to help clarify things in the statute, to provide additional detail to help clerks conduct elections,” Crane said.