Which tight Arizona races could trigger recounts and who’s footing the bill

Many logistics trigger a vote recount in Arizona; however, it is highly unlikely that a recount would completely flip a race.
Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 8:53 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Because several races are so close, we’re looking at more than one recount in this state for some of these major races. A new law this year expanded the number of votes that triggers an automatic recount. If that happens, many logistics come with it, including a hefty price tag for you: the taxpayer.

Some of our state’s most powerful positions are still up in the air, meaning recounts might be on the horizon. “They sure seem like they’re headed that way,” said Christine Jones, who was part of a recount herself.

Jones knows how a recount can go first-hand. Her race in 2016 running for the 5th Congressional District against Andy Biggs in the Republican primary led to a recount.

After the original vote count, Biggs was ahead by 16 votes. After the recount, he won by 27 votes. “Ultimately the difference was very small, and it was a lot of effort for that small of a difference,” said Jones.

Jones said while many Arizona races are close right now, recounts may not change much, but she supports the effort no matter what. “If it’s around 10,000 votes certainly a recount probably won’t result in a change, but if your race is decided by single digits like mine was then of course you want it to be recounted,” said Jones.

Before this year, if votes were within one-tenth of a percent in a race, it would go to a recount. But thanks to a new law passed and sponsored by state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, now a recount will happen if votes are within half of a percentage.

That bill had bipartisan support. “It showed you that it doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you’re on, you want to make sure every last vote is counted, that it is accurate,” said Ugenti-Rita.

While Ugenti-Rita said fair elections are priceless, recounts are not. According to the Maricopa County recorder’s office, the cost of temporary staffing alone for this general election was $2.5 million. The recorder’s office said they would keep a portion of the temp workers for recounts, so we’d still be looking at more than a million dollars in Maricopa County alone just for recount temp staffing.

The other 14 counties would have staffing costs, too, all of which are paid for by taxpayers. “If you think we’re wasting a lot of money, we’re wasting a lot of time, why are we bothering with this, just remember there’s an actual person behind this effort and it matters to them,” said Jones.

To put this into perspective, once the remaining votes in this state are counted for governor, that half a percent number would be between 12,000-13,000 votes difference to trigger a recount. Right now, the difference is above that number, and Lake would need to make up several thousand votes to close that gap and force a recount by state law.