5 facts about the recount process in North Carolina
A statewide, machine recount is under way in the North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice contest, where Republican Paul Newby leads Democrat Cheri Beasley by 409 votes after all counties certified their results.
Beasley requested the recount. For additional details, see “Statewide Recount in Supreme Court Race Begins This Week.”
Only the Supreme Court contest is eligible for a statewide recount, so no other statewide contests will be recounted.
As county boards of elections complete their recounts, results will be posted here: https://www.ncsbe.gov/2020-statewide-recount-results
Dozens of counties have begun their recounts. The State Board of Elections offers the following five facts about the recount process in North Carolina:
1. Recounts are a time-intensive, labor-intensive process. While some counties, such as Beaufort County, expect to complete their recounts in one day, larger counties with more ballots to count, such as Wake County, may take five or six days. In the 2020 general election, nearly 5.4 million voters cast ballots in the Supreme Court race, all on paper ballots. All 100 counties will use bipartisan teams to put every ballot through a tabulator, counting that contest only.
Several counties, including Guilford and Mecklenburg, are conducting paper ballot recounts for the first time, after recently switching voting systems. County boards of elections must arrange for two-person, bipartisan counting teams for each tabulator used in the recount. This ensures that both candidates’ political parties are represented at every step.
For county-by-county recount schedules, go here: https://www.ncsbe.gov/2020-statewide-recount-meetings
2. Small variances are expected between the canvassed results and the recount results. In a 2016 statewide recount in the state auditor’s race, Chuck Stuber trailed Beth Wood by about 6,000 votes before the recount. After the recount, Wood won by about 6,050 votes out of more than 4.5 million cast in that election.
Because ballots are scanned again through the tabulator, which may be a different tabulator, partial or stray marks on the ballot may be counted differently the second time. This may result in counts that are marginally different from the initial count, by roughly a couple votes per 100,000 ballots cast.
Some counties are using high-speed tabulators to expedite their recounts, which also may result in slight variances from the results from the smaller precinct tabulators that first counted the ballots.
3. The 100 counties bear the cost of the recount. Pursuant to state law, the county boards of elections across North Carolina pay the bills for the recount. Costs will vary by the county’s size and the number of ballots to be recounted. In Greene County, with fewer than 9,000 ballots to recount, labor costs will be $400 to $600. The cost for Wake County, which has about 635,000 ballots to recount, will be an estimated $110,000. More than 100 people will work on Wake’s recount.
4. What are the possible next steps for the candidates? State law provides that if the initial recount is not hand-to-eye, which this is not, and does not reverse the results, that Beasley may demand a hand-to-eye recount in a sample of precincts. If the recount reversed the results, Newby would have the same right to ask for a hand-to-eye recount in a sample of precincts. The sample would be all ballots in 3 percent of the precincts and early voting sites in that county, chosen at random.
If results of the hand-to-eye recount differ from the previous results within those precincts to the extent that extrapolating the amount of the change to the entire jurisdiction (based on the proportion of ballots recounted to the total votes cast for that office) would result in the reversing of the results, then the State Board of Elections would order a hand-to-eye recount of all ballots statewide. The counties would bear the costs.
5. Recount results are official results. The results of the recount will be considered the official results for the Supreme Court Chief Justice contest.
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