The recount in an Inland Empire congressional primary race began Wednesday, with the third place finisher hoping to pick up enough votes in a manual tally to move up into the top two places and make it a two-Republican runoff election in November.
The 31st Congressional seat primary was won by Republican Paul Chabot, securing the businessman the number one spot in the race to represent the Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino and Redlands areas. Redlands' mayor, Democrat Pete Aguilar, came in second — just 209 votes ahead of Republican Lesli Gooch.
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Gooch supporter John Berry of the Redlands Tea Party Patriots requested the recount. Congressman Gary Miller (R-Rancho Cucamonga) is retiring in the district that leans Democratic and has a majority Latino population.
What's the point of a recount?
Manual vote recounts are requested by campaigns and others who hope that counting votes by hand will turn up enough additional votes to change the outcome of an election.
Unlike some other states, California does not have automatic recounts, even in very close elections. But any registered voter can request a recount — as long as they are willing to pick up the cost.
In this case, the San Bernardino County Registrar is charging more than $6,000 for the first day's count of up to 23 precincts. The count is a pay-as-you-go, so the party asking for the count must pay each day for the count to continue.
What's happening in the 31st District recount?
Two panels of four Registrar employees will examine ballots and the markings on them one by one, deciding how the vote in the 31st District should be counted. The process is open to the public.
Representatives of the various candidates watch the count and occasionally argue whether a ballot should be counted or not counted. The official result would change only if all the votes in the district are manually recounted. Gooch would need to pick up enough new votes to overcome her 209-vote deficit over the second place candidate.
The first day of the recount focused on only 23 precincts out of a couple hundred, and the count can go on as long as Gooch's backers are willing to pay thousands of dollars each day to keep it going. If they run out of money or decide it's futile, they can end the count at any time.