Anyone examining the bizarre and tedious process of recounting a district election may be wondering, since these things are so much fun, why don't we do more of them? The answer, as revealed late Friday by the Department of Elections, is that they're not cheap.
In order to get the ball rolling in a recount of the District 7 contest in which Norman Yee eked out a 132-vote win over F.X. Crowley, it's going to require a check for a shade over $10,000 (and $200 more if a manual recount is desired). And, as is so often the case, this payment earns one the right to start making more and bigger payments.
See Also: Prior District 7 Coverage
The recount is officially being called for by District 7 resident Linda Plack, who is represented by San Francisco's top elections lawyer, Jim Sutton, and backed by a consortium of labor organizations supporting Crowley.
Sutton had requested both manual and machine recounts, but, within a letter and trove of documents and spreadsheets sent out Friday afternoon, Arntz cited case law stating you can use one method or the other, but not both. So, should Plack/Sutton/Unions/Crowley opt for the manual recount, it'll run an estimated $69,443. And should they go the machine route, it'll cost $62,416. If the recount proceeds, the estimated day's costs will be submitted to the recount proponents prior to work commencing on a daily basis.
The heaviest bite of a machine count, not surprisingly, deals with the machine. It would run an estimated $40,000: One project manager, one "WinEDS specialist," and two operators would be required at $8,000 a day for two days of testing and three days of counting.
A dozen recount board members earning $125 daily stipends and staffers ranging from warehouse supervisors to sheriff's deputies would push the personnel costs of a manual recount to around $52,500.
Whether any of this will make a dent in Yee's 132-vote victory -- a margin of 0.54 percent -- is unclear. It would seem, however, to be exceedingly unlikely. According to an analysis by the nonprofit organization FairVote, of 18 statewide recounts between the years 2000 and 2009, the average margin change was only 0.03 percent and the largest was 0.11 percent -- far below what Crowley would need to topple Yee.
Arntz's cost estimate requested a cashier's check be delivered to the Department of Elections by 10 a.m. today. According to Elections staff, that did not occur.
Our call to Crowley has not yet been returned. It remains to be seen if the recount is being rethought.
Update, 12:10 p.m.: John Arntz says Sutton told him there will be no recount.