Santa Clara County election workers sort ballots in a warehouse for a recount effort
Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters has been receiving daily checks from a new Super PAC, Count the Vote, to cover costs. Photo by Jana Kadah.

In a massive warehouse behind the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, election workers are pulling hundreds of boxes from storage to begin the recount for the highly-anticipated race to replace Rep. Anna Eshoo’s Silicon Valley congressional seat.

The first day of the Congressional District 16 recount is one of preparation, rather than retabulation. About 30 employees — some who work in the warehouse and others hired as temporary help — spent Monday carrying boxes and separating ballots by precinct. Once ballots are organized, Santa Clara County can begin recounting the roughly 132,000 ballots to determine if both Assemblymember Evan Low and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian will join former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo in the general election.

Simitian and Low advanced to the November runoff after receiving the same number of votes in the March primary. Two people requested a recount which threatens to knock out one of the candidates if the tally changes.

The machine recount was initially estimated to take five days, but based on Monday’s progress that doesn’t look likely, warehouse supervisor Ravi Dhillon told San José Spotlight.

“There are 199 precincts. We started at 8 a.m. (and now at 11 a.m.) we’re pulling precinct nine or 10 and three have been completed,” Dhillon told San José Spotlight. “So in a day we will probably pull anywhere from 15 to 20 precincts, so that’s going to take us about at least a week or 10 days.”


In light of three candidates moving on to the November runoff in Silicon Valley’s congressional race, a recount is underway. Here’s what’s happening behind the scenes. Story to come at #election #vote #siliconvalley #CD16 #localnews #congress #newstiktok

♬ original sound – San José Spotlight

Ballots are organized in the order they come in, which is not an obstacle unless someone requests a recount. Then the ballots must be reorganized by precinct so they can be recounted, Dhillon said.

Luckily, the ballots are clearly organized by precinct, so teams of two take on a precinct and know which specific boxes to dig through to get the ballots.

Dhillon said bringing in more workers doesn’t necessarily mean the process will go faster because they are working in a limited space.

“It could also lead to more confusion or disorganization,” he said.

Steve Goltiao, spokesperson for the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, said the county may begin recounting the completed precincts as workers sort out the remaining boxes to expedite the process. San Mateo County also started its recount on Monday.

Recounts are fairly expensive. Requester Jonathan Padilla, a former campaign staffer for Liccardo’s mayoral campaign, has to pay $12,000 every day of the recount. The total cost is estimated at $84,000. The recount in San Mateo County, which makes up 18% of the district, is estimated to cost $6,000 per day.

Padilla must place a daily deposit to cover the costs of that day’s recount work. If he fails to make the daily payment, his recount request will end — although in his letters to county officials, he’s stated he’s ready to make the daily payments necessary to carry out a recount for both counties.

Padilla’s recount request was criticized by election officials and politicos – noting it was a political move motivated by a desire to narrow the field of candidates to help Liccardo.

Goltiao said workers are only paying attention to the work at hand, even with Low and Simitian campaign staffers in the lobby awaiting the recount.

Some of Assemblymember Evan Low’s campaign staffers await the recount at the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters. Photo by Jana Kadah.

A handful of individuals stopped by Monday morning because ballots are only being sorted.

Mountain View resident Laurel Chessin came to observe the process because she was stunned by the election results and wanted to see “democracy in action.”

“I’m just a voter, but I did volunteer in the primary elections so I was just curious, what happens next? This is an exciting event,” Chessin told San José Spotlight.

She said her husband believes the recount will result in the exact same number of votes because ballots will be counted by a machine – which is how they were originally tallied. Chessin thinks only two candidates will advance, but a change in votes doesn’t shake her confidence in the democratic process, she said. After observing part of the recount, she is even more confident the ballots will be tallied fairly.

“I am pretty impressed about all the precautions that they take against confusion and fraud and trespassing and all that other stuff,” Chessin said. “For example, they have two-person rooms, so in other words, people don’t examine ballots by themselves. So it was reassuring that they are taking such a serious attitude toward it.”

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

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