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Narrow margin in 21st House District election could prompt a recount

Delaware Public Media

Delaware is expected to see its first recount in a state legislative race on more than a decade this week.

The unofficial tally Tuesday in the 21st House District showed Republican state Rep. Mike Ramone with only a 35-vote lead over Democrat Frank Burns.

Ramone has held this seat since 2008 - the same year Delaware saw its last recount in a state legislative race. That resulted in Republican Pamela Thornburg’s victory over Democrat Trey Paradee by only 50 votes in Dover’s 29th House District.

Democrats hold a sizable registration lead over Republicans in Ramone’s district, and in the 2018 midterm, he won by just over 400 votes. This year, Burns – a biomedical researcher – performed far better than past Democratic challengers, edging within a half-percent of Ramone and potentially triggering a new count.

Delaware’s voting machines have changed since the 2008 recount – previous machines provided no paper record of votes that could be counted – so Burns says he doesn’t know what a recount will entail this year.

“Before, when they had a recount, they would just read the numbers off the machines," he said. "Now I’m not sure if they’re supposed to read numbers off the machines or go through paper printouts.”

The recount is in the hands of the New Castle County Board of Canvass — affiliated with the Superior Court — which convenes Thursday morning to review all election results. Officials will determine during that review if a recount is needed in the 21st House District; if it is, the Board will conduct it in that same meeting Thursday.

According to state Democratic Party Chair Betsy Maron, the Board will be able to continue its work on Friday if it can't complete the review or recount on Thursday.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.