How Do Recounts Work In Texas State Elections?

Nov 8, 2019
Originally published on November 8, 2019 5:12 pm

Tuesday's special election results for the Texas House District 100 seat were so close, there could be a recount. But what are the rules, and who can request a recount? Here’s how recounts work in Texas state elections.

The Texas Secretary of State has detailed information about recount procedures.

Texas law only automatically requires a recount if the results of a race are tied. In a race for office, only a candidate (usually not the winner) can request a recount. For a ballot measure — like the 10 constructional amendments Texas voters considered in November 2019 — a specific-purpose political committee involved in the election or any 25 eligible voters who team up can request a recount.

Most of the time, it depends on the numbers.

If you’ve lost an election and the number of votes you are behind is less than 10% of the total number of votes received by the winner or any candidate qualified for a runoff, you can request a recount.

For example:

Candidate A gets 2,000 votes

Candidate B gets 1,850 votes

The difference in the number of votes between the candidates is 150.

Since 150 is less than 200 — 10% of 2,000 — Candidate B can request a recount.

This same math applies to votes for a ballot measure.

Under this rule, both of the candidates who failed to advance to the runoff for Texas House District 100 could request a recount.

First place candidate Lorraine Birabil got over 33 % of votes. Only five votes separated second place finisher James Armstrong and Daniel Davis Clayton, who finished third. Fourth place candidate Sandra Crenshaw was a little more than 100 votes behind them. 

A candidate can also request a recount of the total number of votes received by all candidates in a race is less than 1,000.

The other scenario that constitutes grounds for a recount is if an election judge swears they incorrectly counted paper ballots. This has to be certified by the Secretary of State, and according to their website it doesn’t happen often.  

In most cases, the deadline to request a recount by 5 p.m. five days after the election, or two days after the canvass. Canvassing is the process where every ballot is accounted for and validated.

How long that will be depends on how long it takes to complete canvassing and certify the election results. Since Texas House District 100 race is a special election,  it’s the governor's office that ultimately certifies the results.

If a request for a recount is approved, it must happen within seven days after the request is approved.

KERA's Bill Zeeble contributed to this report. 

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