CORRECTION: Pierce County Recounts

In yesterday’s Pierce Transit post I misread the recount policy, as pointed out by brilliant reader Bernie. This News Tribune piece explains how it actually works. Basically, the losing side has to fork over $200,000 to fund the recount.

I apologize for the error.

Comments

  1. says

    Would the State Democrats be willing to help either with fundraising or a direct donation? That’s a hefty bill to pay, but one that should be paid.

    In Republican circles is a belief that in 2000 Cantwell won her Senate seat because of some gamesmanship in Pierce County elections.

    Something you guys need to think about. Now, please.

    • Bernie says

      I would think the Amalgamated Transit Union would be the main contributor to a recount plus what if any campaign money is left over on the YES side. I think $200k is the price of the full meal deal hand recount of all the ballots. That’s an expensive game of chance. More likely is a partial recount in selected precincts. The State Democrats can provide the expertise. The question has to be though, is it better to spend the money on a recount or instead put it toward a new campaign or a special election. The answer will be dependent on the final vote differential.

      • Bernie says

        The undervote numbers are large for all of the local elections. A lot of people just voted for President. Ironic since that may have the least effect on their lives as Washington’s electoral votes were never in play. Some more voted for President and Governor and then after that it really drops off.

      • asdf says

        $200,000 is a lot of money and I’d rather it get spent on actual bus service than a recount which is probably going to lose anyway. Face the facts – you lost – and if you live in Pierce County and haven’t done so already, it’s time to either buy a car or move somewhere else.

    • Stephen F says

      Why bother? It clearly lost. A recount won’t show a win in the end. The error rate just isn’t high enough for a measure with an electorate of this size. $200,000 would be better spent lobbying Pierce County and the City of Tacoma.

  2. Bernie says

    Tuesday, November 13, 2012 4:16 PM: With less than 2,000 ballots left to count the race is as close as it’s ever been. NO holds a 681 vote advantage. That’s likely to be within a few votes either way of the final tally. An incredibly tight race but unlikely to be reversed with a recount. Although certainly not impossible.

    • Bernie says

      Oops, can’t count straight. It’s actually a 751 vote difference. The percentage has remained steady at 49.81% to 50.19%.

  3. AlexKven says

    Complaint Alert!
    $200,000 for a recount? And a recount that should be automatic with such close margins? I guess because ballot measures could never be close to as important as human candidates. Never mind if it takes away over half of the county’s transit system.

    But $200,000? $200,000! That’s $200,000, like 200 X $1000. Like the prop 1 tax (increase) of a $66,666,666 purchase. $200,000! Enough to give EVERY prop 1 voter (counting both approve and reject) a dollar and still have enough money to buy a laptop (personally, I would give the yes voters $2, and give the no voters none).

    So seriously, let’s go deep here. My father makes $50,000 a year working as a full time driver for FedEx. If there 16 workers counting, then they each get paid $12,500. if there are 64 workers counting, they each get $3,125. All this for ONE recount.

    Seriously, this is crazy. The only things I can think about are:
    A. Pierce County auditors really hate their wonderful counting being challenged, OR
    B. They intend recounts to be a FOR PROFIT business.

    Those are the only reasons I can think of for a recount costing so much. And again, one that should be automatic.

    Who exactly decides on the price of the recount?

    • Bernie says

      I’m pretty sure the $200k figure is for a full hand recount. Every ballot has to have two people hold it up and agree on the result and put it in the appropriate pile. How many of those can you do in an hour, 8 hours a day without going crazy or making mistakes? Maybe a 100 per hour? OK, that’s 2,000 hours times two equals 4,000 man hours. Figure the cost of that doesn’t include retrieving the ballots, multiple levels of supervisors to assure everything is on the up, paying the utility bills, etc. All that’s got to drive the cost per hour of reviewing the ballots close to $50/hr which gets you to $200,000 and you haven’t even started counting the piles yet.

      • AlexKven says

        I think you could go at least as fast as 1 ballot per 15 seconds, though, which would give you 4 per minute, which is 240 per hour. If you could get down to 10 seconds, then it’s at 360 per hour. For the FULL PC election, it’s 45 cents per ballot, and at 360 per hour, the workers would still get paid at 81 dollars per hour (with two people per ballot). At 240 ballots per hour (from here on designated as “BPH”), they get paid $54 per hour, and at 100 BPH, they still get paid $22.50 per hour.

        The only way I can justify that amount is if they actually got down to two people holding up the ballot (one by one) at a rate of 100 per hour, which is 1.6 per minute, which is 36 seconds per ballot. Pay would be 22.50 per hour, which some might argue as unreasonable. But I don’t think it takes 36 seconds to decide on a ballot, as most people will clearly fill in their desired arrow, and it should be obvious to both counting parties within the first 5 seconds or so.

        (Did I mention that I like math?)

      • Bernie says

        Your confusing wages with cost. What your employer pays you is only a small fraction of the cost. Even if the counters are temps and don’t have benefits there is a high cost of supervision because of the possibility of fraud. You’re also not sitting still counting ballots for eight hours straight. There’s breaks, there’s shuffling boxes and boxes of ballots each of which has to be signed off on, checked and rechecked every time it’s opened or moved. It’s a very time intensive process and nobody is treating it as a profit center. I’m quite sure an audit would show the county loses money on recounts.

    • Stephen F says

      Bernie is right here. Plus. A recount is still going to give you a loss at the end of the day. You do the math on statistical error rate in elections and you’d already know that a recount is a pointless effort.

      • Bernie says

        A recount is still going to give you a loss at the end of the day.

        I suspect you’re right, at least with respect to a total recount. However, the party paying the piper gets to decide just which districts to count. So, if you had a few large precincts a hand recount would likely buy you some votes. But my guess is overcoming more than a couple hundred vote differential (0.1%) would be a miracle. But then there’s what happened in King County with the Rossi/Gregoire race where they “found” a bunch of extra ballots. Oh, and you want to be able to pay for as many counts as it takes to get the answer you want.

    • AlexKven says

      I guess you’re right. But there should be a margin for an automatic recount, nonetheless. Why do they only do automatic recounts for human candidates?

      Look at it this way. If Prop 1 fails by ONE vote, they still won’t do an automatic recount, even though the chances are good that it should pass. At this point, it should be considered a matter of negligence. A recount, expensive or not, is just required sometimes. What if it’s exactly 50/50? Now recount? Na, let’s just flip a coin.

      The future of transit could indeed be riding on a flipping coin. That’s messed up, and is something that needs to be fixed.

      • Bernie says

        For State wide measures I believe there is an automatic recount. The State doesn’t want to pay for local elections and there is reluctance to force unfunded mandates on the counties. A county can decide, based on it’s belief in the original accuracy of it’s counting to create a threshold but somebody has to pay for it. At the very least if you request a recount and the original result is reversed you should get a refund.

        I do wonder what happens in a tie. A Fire Protection levy passed by a mere 3 votes!

        Fire Protection District No. 23
        Approved 300 50.25%
        Rejected 297 49.75%

        If it truly is a tie then maybe a coin flip is the right answer.

      • AlexKven says

        I think that a better solution would be to have a judge in the county’s superior court hear cases when the difference is less than a certain threshold (<1%, <.5%, <.2%, <.1%, tie), as would happen if one side were to appeal it. That would basically make the appeal automatic.

  4. Bernie says

    Wednesday, November 14, 2012 3:50 PM

    Pierce Transit
    Approved 99,845 49.82%
    Rejected 100,553 50.18%

    That should pretty well close the book on it as I think the margin of 708 is equal to or exceeds the number of ballots left to count. Watch for the sequel coming to political theater near you soon, “Pierce Transit, the Recount”.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] As of Sunday evening, the margin is down to 695 votes, in favor of a NO. The auditor says the ballots received are starting to drop to a trickle, with only 341 received yesterday. But the margin is 0.36%, small enough to trigger an automatic machine recount. [UPDATE: A commenter points out that the linked rule may not apply to local measures. I've sent an email to the Pierce County auditor to find out. See the correction.] [...]

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