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Cuomo’s 3rd proposal for 2020: Mandate automatic, manual recounts in close elections

Budget Proposal No. 3: Mandate manual recounts

Governor Andrew Cuomo says he wants to ensure the electoral process is correct in New York State. That’s why he’s establishing ‘clear’ rules that mandate when a recount is triggered in state and local elections.

Current law does not require automatic vote recounts, even when election results are extremely close. Moreover, the vast majority of county board of elections have not implemented such requirements on their own and while it can be compelled in court, it is rarely done.

“Elections are the foundation of our democracy, and there can’t be any confusion when it comes to their outcomes — otherwise people lose faith in the process. Right now decisions about whether to proceed with recounts in closely contested races almost always get bogged down in costly and unnecessary litigation because there’s a hodgepodge of standards around the state,” Governor Cuomo said. “By establishing clear rules mandating when a recount should be triggered and a process for local governments to follow, we’ll boost confidence in the democratic process and take another step toward transforming our electoral system into a model for the rest of the nation to follow.”

Without statewide standards for triggering and conducting recounts in elections, County Boards of Elections and campaigns are often unprepared for the possibility of a recount in competitive contests. Recounts are regularly started through costly and time-consuming litigation, an unnecessary burden on local government, and weaken voters’ trust in New York’s electoral system. This legislation will provide clear direction to County Boards of Elections so that they may conduct timely and accurate recounts, continuing New York State’s legacy as a national leader on electoral reform.

The new legislation will amend current State Election Law to:

  • Require an automatic recount in all statewide elections in which the margin of victory for a candidate or ballot proposition is 0.2% of all votes cast in the contest;
  • Require an automatic recount in all other elections in which the margin of victory for a candidate or ballot proposition is 0.5% of all votes cast in the contest;
  • Ensure that recounts be completed manually.

In 2019, Governor Cuomo accomplished a key goal of his Justice Agenda when he signed landmark legislation strengthening New York State’s democracy by transforming election laws and increasing access to the ballot. These milestones included instituting early voting, expediting party enrollment changes to make it easier for voters to participate in upcoming primary elections, establishing pre-registration for minors, and celebrating the passage of resolutions for amendments to the State Constitution that would allow for same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting by mail.


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