Former Mayor Sam Liccardo, California State Assemblymember Evan Low and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian are pictured in a collage photo
Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and State Assemblymember Evan Low are headed to a November runoff, with a recount bumping Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian from the race for Congressional District 16.

Two recount requests are pending for the highly anticipated race to replace Rep. Anna Eshoo’s Silicon Valley congressional seat — potentially changing who advances to the November runoff.

County election officials have confirmed Jonathan Padilla, a former finance director for Sam Liccardo’s San Jose mayoral campaign, and Dan Stegink, a former San Mateo County supervisor candidate, have each requested Santa Clara and San Mateo counties conduct a recount for the Congressional District 16 race.

Steve Goltiao, spokesperson for the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, said county counsel is exploring whether the request is valid. In order for it to qualify and the recount to begin, requesters must be California registered voters and identify which candidate it was requested for.

“(Requesting for a candidate) means if the recount finds changes in favor of that candidate, then the requester would not have to pay for the recount,” Goltiao told San José Spotlight.

It doesn’t inherently mean the requester coordinated with the candidate or the campaign, Goltiao said. It just means if the election result changes for the candidate the recount was requested for, then the requester does not have to pay for the recount.

Both Goltiao and San Mateo County Assistant Chief Elections Officer Jim Irizarry did not share who Padilla or Stegink requested recounts for.

“We just got (recount requests) within 24 hours of one in just several minutes from the other,” Irizarry told San José Spotlight. “So we are in the process of reviewing the applications as to the form and format of the request.”

The closely-watched congressional primary wrapped up in an extraordinary manner with three candidates advancing to the general election because two tied for second place. Assemblymember Evan Low and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian tied for second, each with 30,249 votes or 16.6%. The two have seesawed between razor-thin margins for weeks, vying to join former San Jose Mayor Liccardo, who secured the top spot with 38,489 votes or 22.13%.

But in a primary race with 182,135 votes split between 11 candidates, some argue it’s possible at least one ballot was miscounted — and there only needs to be one miscounted ballot between Low or Simitian to change the race.

Those who request a recount must also identify whether they want ballots reticulated by machine or by hand. Manual recounts tend to be more accurate and can change results because teams of four work together to ensure accuracy and transparency, allowing for team members to check each other’s work and to make sure no single person is making the decision of how to count ballots. However, they are more expensive than electronic recounts.

Goltiao said it would take approximately 10 days to tally votes by hand, at an estimated cost of $32,000 per day for a total of $320,000. If the requester asks for a machine recount, it would take about five days to rescan all ballots at an estimated cost of $16,840 per day for a total of $84,200. For San Mateo County, which accounts for 18% of the district, a manual recount would cost roughly $85,000.

Low and Simitian previously said they won’t ask for a recount, but Liccardo’s team has been silent. Some politicos believe Liccardo’s team was exploring a recount after a mysterious poll circulated the district over the weekend asking residents who they would vote for if the election was held today, according to screenshots obtained by San José Spotlight. It also asks residents who they would vote for if Liccardo ran only against Low or Simitian.

“According to the Santa Clara County Registrar, more than 100 ballots were not included in the ‘final’ tally because voter signatures could not be verified before certification among a variety of other issues,” a spokesperson for Liccardo’s campaign told San José Spotlight. “We understand why, under these extraordinary circumstances, there would be an effort to make sure these votes are fully considered.”

A campaign spokesperson for Low doesn’t see the potential recount the same way.

“This is a page right out of Trump’s political playbook using dirty tricks to attack democracy and subvert the will of the voters,” Low’s campaign spokesperson told San José Spotlight. “Sam Liccardo, who does not live in the district, did not file a recount himself. Instead, he had his former staffer do it for him. What’s he afraid of?”

Simitian’s campaign did not respond to request for comment.

Contact Jana at [email protected] or follow @Jana_Kadah on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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