Represent! | Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Controllers' recount: Perez pulls the plug

Assembly Speaker John Perez poses for a picture at the 2012 Democratic National Convention on Sept. 4, 2012.
Assembly Speaker John Perez poses for a picture at the 2012 Democratic National Convention on Sept. 4, 2012.
Kitty Felde/KPCC

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Former Assembly Speaker John Perez has called a halt to the recount of votes in the state Controller's race, having gained just ten votes over six days of counting, at a cost of at least $30,000, his campaign consultant Douglas Herman said.

Perez made a call to Board of Equalization Member Betty Yee Friday afternoon shortly before 5 p.m. to concede the race.  She placed second in the June 3 primary election by 481 votes.  Perez placed third.  Yee will face Republican Ashley Swearengin in the November general election.

Perez decided to end the recount to avoid interfering with election officials' mid-August deadlines to mail ballots to military personnel and international voters, Herman said.

Had Perez not called off the counting, San Bernardino County would have begun its recount on Monday, and Kern County would have continued a seventh day of counting ballots.

Recounts seldom change the outcomes of elections, and they are so rare in statewide office elections that the Secretary of State's office could not say when the last such recount was held.

Perez launched the recount on the theory that the margin of error for the voting machines used by counties was larger than his 481-vote loss to Yee. He called for a hand recount of ballot expecting that humans looking closely at ballots can detect votes that a machine might not count. The hand recount also allows candidates to examine uncounted ballots  and challenge the registrar's decision not to count them.

According to the latest totals published by the counties registrars of voters, Perez gained just three votes in Kern County at a cost of at least $24,000, and seven votes in Imperial County where he spent about $6,000.

In his statement conceding the election, Perez said he believed he could have found enough votes to make up the deficit. But there was pressure from fellow Democrats to abandon the count. The Democratic State Central Committee gave Yee's campaign $50,000 to help cover her legal and other recount costs.

The legacy of the Perez-Yee recount may be seen as early as next month, when Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) plans to introduce a bill requiring an automatic statewide recount of elections when results are close. Nineteen other states have automatic recounts, some in the case of an actual tie, others when the result is closer than a certain percentage. Such a change would speed a recount and shift the cost from the person or candidate requesting the count to the taxpayers.

The Perez campaign estimated a statewide hand recount of ballots could cost as much as $3 million.