More election recounts? How common are they?


Pennsylvania Senate candidate Mehmet Oz, left, accompanied by former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Greensburg, Pa., Friday, May 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

(NewsNation) — Who could forget the infamous Florida recount in the 2000 presidential election between former President George Bush and former Vice President Al Gore that famously resulted in Bush winning the pivotal state by 537 votes?

Or, who could forget the dozens of lawsuits and election audits that occurred after former President Donald Trump falsely claimed he defeated Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election?

Trump may soon find himself wrapped up in another recount over a Pennsylvania Senate race in which he isn’t even running.

Election recounts and disputes are always contentious and can throw the American political scene into a frenzy. But how common are they?

Recounts in presidential recounts can be tricky as they must occur on a state-by-state basis, such as Florida in 2000. That’s because presidents are not elected by winning the overall popular vote. They are elected by winning 270 state electors from the Electoral College.

Five times in the history of the United States a person has won the presidency, but not the popular vote.

  • John Quincy Adams over Andrew Jackson in 1824.
  • Rutherford B. Hayes over Samuel Tilden in 1876.
  • Benjamin Harrison over Grover Cleveland in 1888.
  • George W. Bush over Al Gore in 2000.
  • Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Only the Bush vs. Gore race of 2000 ended in a recount but all of the election results spurred controversy in the American public.

Statewide recounts are pretty rare, however. According to a study done by FairVote, from 2000 to 2019, there were only 31 recounts in 5,778 statewide general elections. And just 16 of those recounts were consequential in the outcome of the election.

Outcome reversals from recounts are even more rare. Of the 31 recounts conducted, only three led to a change in outcome, according to FairVote.

Recounts also do very little to change voting margins. The average margin shift is about 430 votes between frontrunners, or 0.024% of votes in those elections, according to the study.

Buzz over recounts is heating up once again, however, as it appears Dr. Mehmet Oz might plunge into a recount in a Pennsylvania Senate primary. Current numbers indicate he narrowly defeated hedge fund CEO David McCormick 31.17%% to 31.07%. In Pennsylvania, a recount is automatically triggered when tallies are within 0.5% of each other.

Oz, who was Trump’s pick for the race, was encouraged by the former president to “just declare victory” because it “makes it much harder for them to cheat with the ballots ‘they just happened to find.'”

While it is unclear from Trump’s post, made on Truth Social, is who he means by “they” in an election between two Republican candidates. It appears he is once again suggesting voter fraud is at play in elections.

Smaller recounts are also happening right now in state elections in Indiana. Including one in a race for a state House seat in District 32, where a Republican primary candidate is requesting a recount in a contested election.

In Idaho, a recount appears to be coming in another state House race, where the voting margin is 50.03% to 49.97%.

Arizona’s state legislators recently passed a bipartisan bill that could increase the number of recounts automatically triggered in the state. Currently, a recount is triggered in Arizona if a voting results are within .01% of each other. This new law would widen that margin to 0.5%.

FairVote is advocating that Arizona stick with it’s previous 0.1% rule, arguing its research shows that figure already captures most elections that could have a consequential recount.

In an interview with Tuscon Weekly, an analyst with FairVote, warned the increase could trigger “unnecessary recounts.”

Regardless, rhetoric over recounts appears to be here to stay.

Between the new Arizona law, which was just one of more than 100 bills filed in the state regarding elections, and former President Donald Trump once again commenting on recounts and fraudulent ballots as he mulls another presidential run in 2024, Americans likely should not expect election disputes and arguments to cease anytime soon.

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