WASHINGTON — There is talk of a recount in Texas’ 28th congressional district as candidates weigh their options in a very thin Democratic runoff.

With a 177-vote lead out of 45,211 votes cast, nine-term Rep. Henry Cuellar of Laredo declared victory early Wednesday morning in his fierce South Texas congressional race against challenger Jessica Cisneros, an immigration attorney who nearly ousted him two years ago.

It’s not the first time Cuellar has declared victory in a tight race. In 2004, Cuellar won by just 58 votes.after two recounts.

Recount rules

Here’s what we know about how Texas recounts rules and procedures:

According to the Office of the Texas Secretary of State, which monitors and oversees elections in Texas, a recount must be requested no later than two days after the official count of all votes in a particular race.

A recount is also not the same as challenging election results in court. A recount simply, again, counts the votes that were cast, while reviewing the results in court could look at voter eligibility or which voters were qualified to vote in person or by mail.

Recounts do not delay the vote, but they do delay the issuance to candidates of certificates of election and qualification for the office affected by the recount. And a request for a recount in a particular race, such as Cuellar’s 2004 election, does not cause a recount in other races or action on a ballot in an election.

Generally, only losing candidates can request a recount after the initial vote count. Candidates may request a recount if:

  • The difference between the number of votes received by the losing candidate and the winning candidate is less than 10% of the number of votes received by the winning candidate. For example, if 2,000 votes were cast in an election and a candidate lost by less than 200 votes, a recount could be requested. Cuellar’s margin of victory is just 0.78% of his total number of votes.
  • The number of votes received by all candidates in a race is less than 1,000.
  • If an election judge swears he miscounted the ballots.
  • Or if the votes were cast using an electronic system, as no reason for requesting a recount is required for elections decided by votes cast with electronic systems.

During Cuellar’s 2004 run, he challenged incumbent Ciro Rodriguez for the South Texas congressional seat, narrowly defeating Rodriguez in the district’s Democratic primary race.

At first, Rodriguez appeared to have a narrow victory – just a slim margin of 145 votes separated the two after the initial count. But a recount revealed missing ballot boxes in two counties, giving Cuellar a 203-vote lead.

Rodriguez immediately objected, arguing that the ballots had been tampered with, and went to court to overturn the result. After the judge called for another recount, Cuellar’s 58-vote margin was cemented.