Let The Recount Begin: Machines Scanning 190,000 Ballots from 16th District

The review of more than 190,000 16th Congressional District ballots from Santa Clara and San Mateo counties began today, but not without a few of the same kinds of twists and turns that dogged the initial ballot counting

The recounting underway in San Mateo and San Jose will not sort each ballot by hand, and there will be no daily posting of results, according to election officials.

At stake in the recount is a spot on the November ballot for the coveted Silicon Valley congressional seat.

Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo’s 8,200-vote margin over the field of 11 candidates on March 5 means he is a shoo-in for the top spot on the ballot. The recount, however, could change the unprecedented tie between Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian and State Assemblymember Evan Low, who each cleared the rest of the field by nearly 7,000 votes.

In the two weeks following the primary vote, the runner-up totals had seesawed back and forth between Low and Simitian. If the two men are still tied after the recount, they will both join Liccardo on the November ballot.

The redrawn 16th District left vacant by the retirement of Anna Eshoo includes portions of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, and each county will announce its own recount totals at the close of counting, which could take one to two weeks.

Just a week ago, it looked like all three men would compete for votes in the General Election, but then a little-known Pacifica Democrat, Dan Stegink, asked for a “machine recount” in both counties.

A couple of days later, Jonathan Padilla filed his own recount request, for a “manual recount,” in both counties, about four times more expensive than the machine count.

The former finance director of a Liccardo mayoral campaign, former Liccardo City Hall adviser and tech CEO with deep pockets and strong ties to Silicon Valley indicated he was prepared to foot the entire $400,000 bill.

California has no mandatory recount law, and requires individuals who seek a recount to pay all costs.

Each man told election officials the recount requests were made on behalf of Low.

Low said he opposed the recount, and his campaign accused Liccardo of masterminding a scheme to secretly fund the recount to improve his odds of winning in November – which the former mayor’s campaign denied.

Padilla released a statement on X:  “Why other Democrats don’t believe in counting votes and ensuring that the will of the people is transparently reflected  confuses me….Our democracy is resilient when we put people above politics and our laws are designed to protect the will of the people. Let’s count every vote.”

Then Friday evening, Stegink withdrew his recount request, and Padilla changed his request to a machine recount and, according to election officials, paid $5,000 to San Mateo County, and $12,000 to Santa Clara County. The cost for a machine recount could cost Padilla about $115,000, with equal portions paid in advance each day.

Another possible wrinkle developed Friday, according to the Mercury News, which said the Low campaign wrote Santa Clara County officials asking them to stop the recount, stating the request to change from a manual recount to a machine recount came too late.

Election officials today declined to comment on the letter, and proceed with the recount. They said the machine process will be similar to the process used in the initial ballot count, with each ballot from 274 precincts scanned digitally before being reviewed by election officials.

Michael Borja, a spokesman for the Santa Clara Registrar of voters, said the manual and machine counts “are different processes and are hard to compare. We are not aware of any evidence that one is inherently more accurate than the other.”

Three decades of journalism experience, as a writer and editor with Gannett, Knight-Ridder and Lee newspapers, as a business journal editor and publisher and as a weekly newspaper editor in Scotts Valley and Gilroy; with the Weeklys group since 2017. Recipient of several first-place writing and editing awards, California News Publishers Association.


  1. If you are considering voting for Liccardo, PLEASE take a good look at what he allowed to happen to San Jose when he was Mayor, and previously Councilman. San Jose has spiraled downhill with one of the most understaffed police forces in the country. Under his watch our downtown became a ghost town with hordes of homeless camping out on our sidewalks and at our boarded up store fronts. San Jose downtowners pay an annual extra fee (PBID) in property taxes. A large part of this goes to washing down the remnants and body fluids left by the homeless. Liccardo’s misguided priorities are evident in the miles of unused bike paths bordered by cracked plastic bollards. BTW he doesn’t even live in district 16!

  2. What ever happened to Election Day when all of the shenanigans were just hear say from sore losers and the voters new who won by ballots cast by citizens with valid ID?
    Can we go back there?

  3. Somebody had better tell the ROV if Liccardo doesn’t live in district 16, since he shouldn’t be allowed to run for that seat if he doesn’t.

  4. Unfortunately and ridiculous, residency is not a requirement for candidates running for United States Representative in Congress.

    Hard to fathom that someone would represent you well if he/she does not even live in your constituency !

  5. Spending over $100K to eliminate one of your opponents from a runoff?

    This is just a primary, nobody is winning anything here. Just a chance to go on to November runoff.

    Examining ballots that were rejected for lack of matching signatures doesn’t equal to “finding” more ballots.

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