Column: It may be time for the legislature to look at laws concerning recounts

Greg Romberg
Posted 8/17/22

Wouldn’t it be nice if this was the end of Tina Peters trying to undermine confidence in elections?

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Column: It may be time for the legislature to look at laws concerning recounts

Posted

Wouldn’t it be nice if this was the end of Tina Peters trying to undermine confidence in elections? After breaking election laws as Mesa County Clerk, making false statements about the legitimacy of the 2020 election, running for Secretary of State and losing the GOP primary by more than 88,000 votes and violating two court orders related to bond conditions, she requested (and paid over a quarter million dollars) for a recount that had no chance of improving her position.

And through it all, she worked to undermine voter confidence in an electoral system that has been continually proven to conduct fair and transparent elections in Colorado. This most recent stunt is particularly egregious as she had to know the recount would not change anything and that would lead to nothing but more unsubstantiated claims that we shouldn’t have confidence in elections. The recount left the margin between former Jeffco Clerk Pam Anderson, the Republican nominee, and Peters of 88,579 votes. The only difference discovered by the recount was 37 uncounted votes from Elbert County in which both Anderson and Peters received an equal number of votes.

While the election conspiracy crowd likes to suggest that machine counting of ballots has resulted in elections that are easily manipulated and subject to mistakes, the facts prove otherwise.

As American elections have transitioned to tabulating votes mechanically, both the academic research and the work of election officials of all political philosophies have proven that current processes of tallying votes with machines is as close to flawless as can be reasonably expected. Along those lines, when recounts are conducted, it is very rare that results change by more than very few votes. Comparing recent recounts with recounts from the era of when votes were counted by hand shows there was a much greater likelihood of significant changes when votes were counted by hand. It’s been proven that it is much more likely that errors occur when people do the counts and can be distracted or make mistakes as they became tired completing their tasks.

Against this backdrop, it may be time for the legislature to look at laws concerning recounts. Under current law, there is an automatic recount if the margin of victory is less than or equal to 0.5% of the margin between the top two candidates. In those cases, the cost of the recount is covered by taxpayers. If the margin is larger than 0.5%, a losing candidate may request a recount, but must pay for it. As recent recounts have proven that there is little chance a recount will change the initial results, the combination of the small likelihood of success and the cost to pay for a recount resulted in fewer candidate funded recounts.

Peters’ recount effort had no chance to change the results of her primary loss and did nothing but continue a circus act that had no purpose but to try to undermine voter confidence. Automatic recounts for very close elections make sense, but the legislature should consider limiting candidate funded recounts to a margin of victory of 3 or 5%.

Greg Romberg had a long career in state and local government and in government relations. He represented corporate, government and trade association clients before federal, state and local governments. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie.

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