25th District: Headed for recount? A breakdown of the process

Christy Smith and Mike Garcia head to special election on May 12, 2020. Courtesy photos

Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, and Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, have been neck and neck in what has played out to be one of California’s five closest contests in the Nov. 3 election. 

The margin separating the incumbent congressman and the assemblywoman marked 400, or less than 1%, as of Friday when elections officials last provided a vote count update. Their tallies reached 169,060 (50.05%) and 168,660 (49.94%) of the vote, respectively. 

Los Angeles and Ventura counties — the two counties that have territory in the 25th district — have yet to process thousands of outstanding ballots and, while elections officials are not releasing just how many are left to be counted for the district, Garcia declared victory Friday in the race over Smith. She declined to concede and called the congressman’s victory declaration “dangerous.” 

While the counties are not releasing the number of ballots remaining for a particular race, a source familiar with the situation said Friday it appeared as if L.A. County still has approximately 2,500 ballots to count for the 25th District.

The close race has prompted a big election question for those who have tuned in since Nov. 3: Will there be a recount and, if so, how does it work? 

California congressional races do not prompt automatic recounts. Instead, any registered voter may and would have to request a new tally with elections officials and the request must be filed within five days after the completion of the official canvass, according to both L.A. and Ventura counties. 

Whether a campaign or voter decides to request a recount, they will have to bear the costs involved with the process, which could total north of $200,000, according to past ballot recounts in L.A. County. 

For the 25th Congressional District, should one take place, an estimate is too difficult and too soon to produce, elections officials said. 

“Approximate costs are also very hard to produce as the price is determined by numerous factors/decisions made by the requestor,” said Michael Sanchez, the L.A. County Registrar public information officer. 

When elections officials greenlight a recount, the process is open to the public and is done so manually “under the supervision of the elections official by recount boards, consisting of four voters of the county, appointed by the elections officials,” according to L.A. County’s recount booklet, which is similar to Ventura County’s process. 

The recount would then begin no later than seven days after the request “and will continue daily (excluding weekends and holidays) for at least six hours per day until completed or canceled by the initial requestor,” reads Ventura County’s recount booklet, which also mirror’s L.A. County’s process. 

Election results under a recount would be recertified if a different candidate receives a plurality of votes, and results would be “declared null and void unless every vote in which the contest appeared is recounted,” read L.A. County’s booklet. 

As of Monday, the counties had not received a request for a recount, elections officials confirmed. 

“I confirmed that there has not been a formal request for a recount in (the 25th Congressional District), as one cannot be formally submitted until after we certify the election results,” said Sanchez. 

Both campaigns appear to have recount funds through the WinRed and ActBlue websites. 

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