Election 2022: What happens if a race is too close to call in New York?

Residents of New York can expect to see vote totals pretty soon after polls close on Tuesday night. And those unofficial totals will include three parts: votes cast on Election Day, votes cast over the nine-day in-person early voting period, and — for the first time for a general election in the state — it'll also include votes sent in by mail.

That mail-in counting process is already underway, according to New York City Board of Elections executive director Michael Ryan.

"Every Tuesday and Friday for the past several weeks we've been counting absentee ballots," Ryan said. "We'll scan all the ballots received, and they will be in the vote totals on election night."

What happens after election night involves two mandatory additional steps, aimed at ensuring the totals are accurate.

One is what's known as the re-canvass. State Board of Elections co-chair Douglas Kellner said that is when teams of bipartisan officials go to every input at every voting machine to make sure the numbers reconcile.

Part two is an audit in which ballots from 3% of the voting machines in every county are hand-counted or counted on a different machine.

"New York's been doing that now for 12 years," Kellner said. "And it's extraordinarily rare when there is any discrepancy at all."

If after all that, the two leading candidates are separated by a margin of less than 0.5% percent, bipartisan teams will literally recount all paper ballots by hand.

"You go into the bins, and you review each of the ballots individually," Ryan said.

"It's a drawn-out process, as you can imagine," Kellner said. "If it's a contest with a large number of votes and will often require multiple teams

Kellner added that the largest manual recount in the state happened during a Queens district attorney primary race; that took about three weeks. He said doing that for a statewide contest could mean anywhere from a three- to five-week process.

Kellner said New York has never conducted a recount for a statewide race. 

If a candidate believes an error was made after the recount is complete, he or she can file a lawsuit and go to court. But for that to gain traction, Kellner pointed out, that candidate would need actual evidence.