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Colorado candidates are getting their recounts, but not by hand

Hand recounts are less accurate and more time consuming. So why do people want them?

MESA COUNTY, Colo. — Mandatory recounts of elections in Colorado have not changed the results of elections, but that's not stopping anyone this year.

Four Republican candidates who lost by large margins are paying out of pocket to have their races recounted.

When candidates' vote totals are within 0.5% of each other, there is a mandatory recount in Colorado.

Republican El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman was part of a conversation with other county clerks at a conference and none could remember when a mandatory recount ended up with a different winner.

"They can't ever recall, inside the mandatory one-half percent recount, that a race was ever changed," he said.

Broerman will have a hand in all four of the recounts happening between now and Thursday.

Republican Tina Peters paid $255,000 for a recount of the GOP Secretary of State primary that she lost by 88,000 votes.

Three local Republican candidates in El Paso County have also paid for recounts.

Peter Lupia lost his primary for clerk and recorder by 27,000 votes and paid for a recount. Rae Ann Weber lost her primary for Coroner by 30,000 votes and paid for a recount. Lynda Zamora Wilson lost her State Senate race by 10,000 votes and paid for a recount.

"No taxpayer dollars will be incurred," Broerman said. "Most of the candidates that are asking for this recount were double digits apart from what the winning candidate was."

RELATED: Tina Peters will get primary recount, but not the version she requested

They wanted a hand recount, but it will be done by election voting machines.

"These candidates are asking for a hand count which is not permissible by state statute. As much as they wish they would like to do a hand count, it just will not happen in this election," Broerman explained.

How long would a hand recount take?

"Weeks. Weeks. It gets to be, very much, a logistical challenge," he said.

He said after the 2020 presidential election, his office estimated what it would take to do a hand recount of El Paso County's ballots.

"We figured it would take several thousand people. We'd have to rent out a hotel ballroom or some large meeting space. It would take us four to five weeks. It would cost us somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000-650,000," Broerman said. "It's just very labor intensive. Hand counting is not accurate. Typically you see a 2% inaccuracy rate. And also, hand counts lend themselves to shenanigans. We can look at the 2000 presidential election in Florida. Every time you touched a ballot, a chad fell out and the results changed."

In May, West Metro Fire Rescue had a special district election for four board directors. That election was counted by hand.

"We had one contested seat and three uncontested seats, and it took us three hours to count less than 500 ballots," West Metro Fire election judge Pam Feely said.

In that election, a team of two counted the ballots and then passed the same ballots to another team of two.

"If they came up with the same number that we had, then we were done. If you didn't, then you had to recount it again," Feely said. "Paying attention and making sure you're putting that slash in the right box, just takes a lot of time and focus. It's easy to make a mistake. It's easy to get lost in which line you're on."

She questions the call for hand recounts by suggesting counting by hand is not done in daily routines.

"Most people don't add or subtract in their checkbook, they use a calculator or they use their phone," Feely said. "We're not hand counting our daily money. Not anymore."

Following the 2020 presidential election, Republican Elbert County Clerk Dallas Schroeder conducted a hand recount. That count proved that the machine count was more accurate.

“The fact that we showed zero tabulation errors in the recount is satisfying and that we experienced human error in the hand count shows how difficult a hand tally is, especially if there is nothing to compare the hand tally to," Elbert County Elections Manager Rhonda Braun said in a statement about the hand recount.

After the recount, Schroeder still made copies of his county's election machine hard drive, which a judge ordered that he turn over to the Secretary of State's Office.

"I'm an eternal optimist, but I will have to tell you the last year-and-a-half has been a real surreal experience," Broerman said. "There will be, probably, nothing that will ever truly satisfy some of these conspiracy theorists on the conduct of elections."

RELATED: New rules from Colorado SoS aim to keep election deniers from tampering with election equipment

RELATED: Tina Peters announces raising $230,000 to pay for recount

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