Santa Cruz County conducts every election as if it will be recounted. Public perception is vital in conducting a recount. Providing information and forms in an organized manner strengthens the perception of the overall integrity of the process.
A recount is conducted by the elections official for the purpose of verifying the number of votes counted for any office or measure in an election. California Elections Code Chapter 12, Sections 15620 through 15634 govern voter requested recounts.
The purpose of the manual recount is to verify the machine count by viewing each ballot, determining how it was voted, and manually tallying those votes.
Who can Request
Any registered voter of the State of California may file a request. The person does not need to be a resident of the district in which the recount is requested. (E.C. §15620)
Timing of Request
The request must be filed within five (5) calendar days after the completion of the official canvass. The canvass is complete when the elections official signs the Certification of the Election Results. (E.C. §15620) If the deadline falls on a weekend or holiday, the deadline is moved to the next business day. (E.C. §15)
Exceptions: For statewide contests, the request must be filed within five (5) calendar days beginning on the 31st day after the election.
Format of request
- The request must be in writing. (E.C. §15620)
- Must specify the contest to be recounted. (E.C. §15620)
- Must state on behalf of which candidate, slate of electors, or position on a measure (affirmative or negative) it is filed. (E.C. §15620)
- May specify the order in which precincts shall be counted. (E.C. §15622)
- May specify the method of counting to be used (computer, manual or both). (E.C. §15627)
- May specify any other relevant material to be examined. (E.C. §15630)
- For statewide contests, may specify in which county or counties the recount is sought. (E.C. §15621)
Place of filing
- With the county elections official responsible for conducting the election, if the contest is not voted upon statewide. (E.C. §15620)
- If the election is conducted in more than one county, the request may be filed with the county elections official of, and the recount conducted within, any or all of the affected counties. (E.C. §15620)
- With the Secretary of State if the contest is voted upon statewide. (E.C. §15621)
- With the City Clerk if it is a city election (or if the city has not consolidated with the county). (E.C. §15620)
Notice of recount
A notice stating the date and place of the recount will be posted by the elections official at least one day prior to the recount and the following persons will be notified in person or by overnight mail: (E.C. §15628)
- All candidates for the office being recounted.
- Authorized representatives for presidential candidates, if the race for presidential delegates is to be recounted.
- Proponents of any initiative or referendum or persons filing ballot arguments for or against any initiative, referendum or measure to be recounted.
- Secretary of State if the recount is for candidates for any state or federal office, delegates to a national convention, or any state measure.
Process of Recount
- The recount is open to the public. (E.C. §15629)
- Recount must start no later than seven calendar days following the receipt of the request and shall be continued daily, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays excepted, for not less than six hours each day until completed. (E.C. §15626)
- No results or running tallies will be released to observers or the media during the recount. Observers may keep their own notes if they wish; however, any numbers they release are not official if they have not been confirmed by the elections official.
Observers Appoint a Spokesperson
Observers/Representatives for each party of interest shall appoint a spokesperson for their group. This person can be in addition to the observers and will have access to all parts of the recount area when escorted by election office personnel. A different person may be appointed periodically upon notification to the election official. Such persons shall be authorized by the parties of interest to make final decisions in their behalf.
- A manual recount must be conducted under the supervision of the elections official by recount boards, consisting of four voters of the county, appointed by the elections official. Recount board members are paid the same as precinct board clerks (not inspectors). (E.C. §15625)
- All actual costs of the recount are directly recoverable from the party requesting the recount and may include, but are not limited to: supervision, security guards, personnel used to review relevant material, computer personnel and administrative costs.
- There should be no more than one observer per interested party on each side of the recount table (positioned behind members of the recount board).
- Observers and spokespersons will be required to log in and receive a badge before entering the recount area. Badges must be worn during the recount and returned to the elections official at the end of the day.
- Observers must follow all rules established by the elections official or they may be refused entry to the recount area.
- Observers may not sit at a recount table and may not touch any ballots, tally sheets or other material of the recount board. Observers may not place any material on the recount table. Except to challenge a ballot, talking is discouraged in the recount area.
Questions concerning the specifics of the recount, other than challenges, are to be routed through the spokesperson who will then direct the question to the designated election office personnel. Observers and spokespersons are not to direct questions to the members of the recount boards. Resolution of questions shall include representatives of all parties of interest.
Ballots may be challenged for incompleteness, ambiguity or other defects.
To challenge a ballot the following procedure shall be used:
- The person challenging shall state the reason for the challenge.
- The recount board shall determine how to count the ballot. If the challenger disagrees with the board�s decision, the challenged ballot shall then be set aside with a notation containing the precinct number, the unique identifier number, how the ballot was counted, why it was challenged and by whom.
Resolutions of Challenges
Challenges shall be resolved at the end of each day, or more often if necessary, at the challenge resolution table. The challenge resolution table may consist of the elections official and/or designee, county counsel, and no more than two representatives from each party of interest. The determination of the elections official at the challenge resolution table shall be final.
- Cameras and recorders must be approved by the County Clerk before being used. Pagers and cellular phones must be set to vibrate or off mode while observing the recount. You may use one of the telephones in the front office should you need to make a call.
- Restrooms are located on either side of the elevators.
- No smoking is allowed in the Elections Department.
- No eating/drinking is allowed in the recount area.
Request for Research of Additional Materials
- If additional research is requested prior to completion of the recount of ballots, the estimated cost of that research shall be deposited with the elections official before such research will commence and before the ballot counting is complete.
- Any research/review/handling of relevant election material shall be done solely at the discretion of the elections official. One representative of each party of interest may be present. Requests to research/review relevant material must be received before the recounting of the ballots is completed. The requestor shall pay all additional costs to complete the research/review.
- Prior to the commencement of the recount, the elections official shall determine the number of boards necessary to complete the recount in a timely manner.
- The recount shall proceed according to the schedule set by the elections official. The recount must continue daily, except Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays for a minimum of six hours per day until completed or discontinued at the request of the initial recount requestor.
- The exact hours of operation, break and lunch times shall be determined by the elections official.
Santa Cruz County follows post-canvass ballot and voting machine security requirements that include two-person rule for all ballots and voting equipment, chain-of-custody documentation, security seals and air gapping of all vote recording devices for the scanners and touch screens, and ballot box sealing and recording device storage provisions. The chain of custody documentation and tamper-evident seals apply to all voted ballots, unvoted ballots, voter-verified paper audit trails, spoiled ballots, vote-by-mail ballots, provisional ballots, voting equipment, and rosters. These logs are audited during the canvass to document security of election materials and are available for review during any recount.
- All recount procedures are open to observations;
- All precincts must be counted to conclusion in full view of observers;
- A record of each precinct will be kept as it is recounted;
- Tally results and ballots will be secured from day to day by securing each in a sealed container, initialed by two elections officials, at the end of the day;
- Ballots will be stored in a locked restricted area accessible by persons wearing a green badge only. There are 4 people in the Elections Department who have been assigned green badges;
- Each morning two elections officials will confirm that the tally sheets and ballot security seals are still in tact from the day before on the record of each precinct;
- Any relevant material that is requested for review shall be provided under the two-person chain of custody rule and all security of such measures will be logged and documented;
- Provide security for off-site counting;
- Use full security measures before and during the recount;
- Any additional security measures must be approved in advance by the elections official and paid for by the requestor.
Security measures for voted ballots:
- Voted ballots are sealed at the polls and signed by the poll workers. The bright orange tamper-evident seal is checked upon arrival at the receiving center. The sealed voted ballot boxes are then stored in the County Elections Office and locked in a double-locked room. When boxes are pulled for the 1% manual tally, two people confirm the seal is intact, the seal is broken and the ballots are removed for the recount. Once the 1% manual tally board is done, the ballots are returned to the voted ballot container, sealed and signed by two witnesses and returned to the secured ballot storage room.
Security measures for unvoted and spoiled ballots:
- Unvoted ballots are sealed at the polls and signed by the poll workers. The white tamper-evident seal is checked and logged in upon arrival at the receiving center Election Night. The sealed unvoted ballot boxes are then locked and stored at the County Elections Office. The boards doing the precinct audit need to open the boxes and confirm the ballot counts. Two people confirm the seal is intact, the seal is broken and the ballots are removed for the audit. The boxes are then resealed and signed by two elections officials. Boxes are kept in the locked office until the audit is complete. Upon completion of the audit, the boxes are logged for transport to the Elections Warehouse for secure storage for the retention period.
- The spoiled ballots are returned from the polls in a sealed and signed Manila Envelope. The envelope's tamper-evident seal is checked and logged in upon arrival at the receiving center Election Night. The sealed envelopes are then locked and stored at the County Elections Office. The boards doing the precinct audit need to open the envelopes and confirm the contents. Two people confirm the seal is intact, the seal is broken and the ballots are removed for the audit. The envelopes are then resealed and signed by two elections officials. Envelopes are kept in the locked office until the audit is complete. Upon completion of the audit, the envelopes are logged for transport to the Elections Warehouse for secure storage for the retention period.
Security measures for relevant materials
- All relevant materials: vote-by-mail ballots, provisional ballots, alpha indexes of voters, rosters of voters, are logged in Election Night. Materials are stored in a double locked room at the Elections Department during the canvass. Once vote-by-mail ballots and provisional ballots are keyed in to the election information management system, they are sorted by precinct, and the ballots are extracted for the vote count update. Ballots are counted and then sealed and stored in a double locked room. The rosters and logs are kept in the locked office until the canvass is complete. Upon completion of the canvass, all relevant materials are logged and transported to the Elections Warehouse for secure storage for the retention period.
Result of Recount
The results of a recount are declared null and void unless every vote in which the contest appeared is recounted. (E.C. §15632)
Upon completion of a recount, if a different candidate, slate of electors, or position on a measure receives a plurality of votes, the results of the official canvass will be changed and the election results re-certified. (E.C. §15632)
A copy of the results of any recount conducted shall be posted conspicuously in the office of the elections official. (E.C. §15633)
Cost and payment
The elections official shall determine the amount of deposit necessary to cover costs of the recount for each day. (E.C. §15624)
The voter filing the request for recount must deposit, before the recount commences and at the beginning of each day following, such sums as required by the elections official to cover the cost of the recount for that day. (E.C. §15624)
If upon completion of the recount the results are reversed, the deposit shall be returned. (E.C. §15624)
The recount shall be conducted under the supervision of the elections official by special recount boards consisting of four voters of the county appointed by the elections official. Each member of a recount board shall receive the same pay as a poll worker, which is $75 per day.
If the office of the elections official is the subject of the recount, the governing body shall appoint an officer, other than the elections official, to appoint and supervise the special recount boards. (E.C. §15625)
Estimated Cost for Manualy Tally
Number of Boards
Cost per Day
Estimated Computer Recount Cost is $300 per hour.
Additional charges may be incurred depending on the size and the scope of the recount.
Automatic Manual Recount
By law, a random sample of ballots from every election must be recounted manually to verify the computer count. A minimum of all votes cast in one percent (1%) of the precincts is included in this process. This manual recount must be completed before the election is certified. The Automatic Manual Recount is open to the public (E.C. §15360)