A handful of votes could decide the CD1 primary. Could that trigger a recount?

By: - September 5, 2023 5:00 am

The mail ballot processing area at the Rhode Island Board of Elections in Cranston. (Jocelyn Jackson/Rhode Island Current)

With a crowded Democratic field in Tuesday’s 1st Congressional District primary, it’s possible the race will be close. And there may even be a high likelihood of a recount.

So suggests Providence College political science Professor Adam Myers. 

“The winner may not even get more than 30% of the vote,” Myers said. “While there’s going to be relatively high turnout for a special election, it will be a lot lower than a presidential or midterm election.”

Under state law, a candidate can request a recount if they are trailing by 2% or 200 votes (whichever is less) — at least, in races in which no more than 20,000 votes were cast. If the election is between 20,001 and 100,000 votes, the margin must be between 1% or 500 votes.

For contests in which more than 100,000 votes are cast, a recount may be requested if the vote margin is less than 0.5% or fewer than 1,500 votes, whichever is less. In Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District, there are 363,385 eligible voters, but as of Friday, 11,360 early ballots were cast across all three primaries being held across the state.

Though uncommon in Rhode Island’s congressional elections, recounts have been the norm in races for state offices. Last year, the state’s Board of Elections BOE) received nine recount requests for primary races in the State Senate, House of Representatives, and Providence City Council. All results were affirmed by the BOE.

Another was requested last year between Democrat Megan Cotter and Republican incumbent Justin Price in the race to represent the 39th House District which includes Hopkinton, Exeter and Richmond.

Price, who took part in the Jan. 6 Trump rally in Washington, D.C. in 2021, called the state to recount the ballots after he was initially trailing by four votes. He went on to lose the race by 32 votes.

Myers said there have been a small number of recounts in legislative races over the years. “Rhode Island has very, very small state legislative districts with an average of 10,000 per district,” he said. “They’re often time going to come down to hundreds of votes or tens of votes.”

Should one of the congressional candidates want a recount, it must be requested in a notarized letter by 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6.


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Christopher Shea
Christopher Shea

Christopher Shea covers politics, the criminal justice system and transportation for the Rhode Island Current.