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January 27, 2021

Legal Update
Alessandra W. Wingerter, Kate R. Cook

Five Ways to Prepare for a Recount Before the Election

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Avoid getting caught unprepared the morning after the election when your race is too close to call. Campaigns necessarily keep their eyes on the prize: winning! Taking these 5 steps before the election will ensure you hit the ground running in the event of a recount and are fully prepared for victory.

1.      Know the numbers. To make a recount plan, you need to know the numbers. How many signatures do you need to petition for a recount? How many days do you have to get those signatures and file the petition? Familiarize yourself with the applicable requirements for the office – which differ by office and municipality – and be aware that the filing deadlines vary depending on whether it is a primary/preliminary election or a general election. For details, review the Secretary of State’s Recount Guide. Remember, no matter the number required, always get more signatures than are necessary. Note that for districtwide and statewide offices, you may only petition for a recount if the margin of victory is not more than one-half of one percent (0.5%) of the votes cast for an office.

2.      Familiarize yourself with the recount papers. As noted above, gathering signatures for a recount petition occurs within a short window of time – and on the heels of an exhausting campaign. Get familiar with the recount paperwork and any special requirements to petition for a recount. Recount petition forms are available from the Election Division of the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth and from city or town clerks or election commissioners.

3.      Maintain good contact information for volunteers. A recount campaign is only as strong as its volunteers. You will need many committed volunteers to serve as observers at a recount. Keep a reliable database of campaign volunteers’ contact information in the event you need them to volunteer as observers and to facilitate recruitment and logistics. The best recount volunteers are those who are committed to the campaign and follow directions. Remember, most everyone who volunteers for a recount agrees it is a thrilling experience to watch democracy in action!

4.      Turn out the vote. While recounts are an exciting example of how every vote counts, they are also stressful, expensive, and winner take all. Far better than relying on a recount is winning by so many votes that a recount is unnecessary. Don’t leave anything on the field in the election by maximizing your voter protection and turn-out efforts.

5.      Engage Counsel. It is advisable to identify your recount counsel before the election to avoid scrambling after the results are known. Recounts often happen on a quick timetable and you want to be certain your lawyer is available and ready to help the campaign through this stressful and technical process without any pitfalls.

To make sure you are ready for a recount, contact the election law practice group at Sugarman Rogers.