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How often do recounts flip election results?

It's only happened three times in 20 years
Posted at 10:38 AM, Nov 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-05 15:14:33-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- The Trump campaign is asking for a recount in Wisconsin and there could be other recounts before this election is over. But recounts rarely flip the result of an election.

From 2009 to 2019, there were 5,778 statewide general elections, according to the non-partisan group FairVote. In that span there were 31 completed recounts.

Only three of the 31 recounts flipped the outcome of the race, FairVote found. Those recounts were a Washington governor’s race in 2004, an auditor’s race in Vermont in 2006, and a 2008 race in Minnesota that made Al Franken a U.S. Senator.

Deb Otis, a senior research analyst with FairVote, said in all three of these cases, the original margin heading into the recount was razor thin: less than .05 percent.

“We generally see a shift in votes during recounts on the order of a few hundred votes or maybe 1000 votes,” said Otis. “The margin in Wisconsin right now is around 20,000 votes. We have not seen a statewide recount shift votes anywhere near 20,000.”

The most memorable recount was in Florida in 2000, in the race between George W. Bush and Al Gore. That recount shifted the margin by 1,247 votes. It was a significant shift in a race decided by just 537 votes, but it was still not enough to flip the outcome.

The record for a shift is 2,567 votes, which happened in Florida’s 2018 senate race won by Rick Scott, but it was also not enough to flip the outcome.