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Assemblymember Evan Low proposes new recount law following his own astounding congressional recount

Grace Hase, The Mercury News on

Published in Political News

The contentious Congressional District 16 recount may be over, but the ripple effects of the nearly three-week saga are still being felt as Assemblymember Evan Low this week unveiled new legislation that would trigger automatic recounts in close statewide elections.

In May, Low emerged victorious from a voter-requested recount after the primary race to replace U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo ended with him in a tie for second place with Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian. Low will now face former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo in the November election.

But before the recount of more than 182,000 votes even began, Low and his attorneys tried to halt the process altogether, alleging the requester missed certain deadlines when he changed the recount from a manual count to a machine one. His campaign called it a “page right out of Trump’s political playbook” and said his opponent was “using dirty tricks to attack democracy and subvert the will of the voters.”

Now, in the name of “election integrity,” Low is trying to change the recount process altogether.

Assembly Bill 996 is a gut-and-amend of a previous bill on a different topic that would require an automatic recount in statewide races where the difference in second or third place candidates is less than the lesser of 25 votes or 0.25% of the number of votes cast in the race.

In this case, the recount provision would apply to governor, state Senate, state Assembly and U.S. Senate and House of Representative races.

“Given the personal experience that I just went through, a number of different issues were raised in the recount process, which then of course sparked a number of challenges and significant justifications to make sure that we’re focused on transparency and also help to ensure that we maintain the integrity of our electoral process,” Low told The Mercury News.

In the case of a voter-requested recount that falls outside the margin, the bill would require a committee funding the recount to reveal the source of any contributions over $10,000 to election officials within 24 hours.

While the Congressional District 16 recount was requested by Jonathan Padilla, a 2020 and 2024 Biden delegate and former campaign staffer for Liccardo, it was funded by a Super PAC called Count the Vote. The Super PAC won’t have to reveal its donors until July due to federal campaign finance laws, but election filings last month showed that Neighbors for Results — a pro-Liccardo Super PAC — moved $102,000 to Count the Vote as the recount kicked off.

Neighbors for Results only lists three donors with the largest check of $500,000 coming from billionaire philanthropist and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“No one ever anticipated a Super PAC funded by a billionaire out of state to request a recount in the name of a candidate that did not make this request,” Low said. “I never would have imagined that and I sat on the elections committee for close to 10 years. No one really anticipates this kind of situation to occur.”

 

Matthew Alvarez, an election attorney with Rutan and Tucker who represented Count the Vote, applauded the idea of an automatic recount law, saying that “it would have avoided a lot of unnecessary political skirmishes and problems with having private folks fund a recount” in the Congressional District 16 race.

“You want politics out of vote counting as much as humanly possible,” he said.

As for the $10,000 disclosure provision of the bill, Alvarez fears the ramifications.

“It’s going to be used by people who don’t want recounts to pressure the people funding them to stop,” he said.

This isn’t the first time an elected official in California has tried to institute automatic recounts. In 2014, then-Assemblymember Kevin Mullins proposed a bill that would require a recount if the margin between the candidates is less than one-tenth of one percent of the vote.

Liccardo’s campaign declined to comment on Low’s bill, but the former mayor recently penned an op-ed supporting automatic recounts in the case of close elections that are funded by the government and not candidates or outside donors.

For some Liccardo’s supporters, Low’s proposed bill is revisionist history.

Former San Jose Mayor Tom McEnery called it “hypocrisy,” noting that the assemblymember “was against it (the recount) when he didn’t think it would help him.”

“It’s just annoying when you see such actions,” McEnery said. “It makes you think about all the serious things we need with people in office. Obviously, he falls a little short in my estimation.”


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