There could be a recount coming to the 3rd Congressional District. Here’s what would happen next.

The process could take until mid-September to complete, according to the Secretary of State's office.

Only 52 votes separated 3rd Congressional District Democratic primary candidates Lori Trahan and Dan Koh Wednesday morning as a close-to-the-finish race inched toward an end.

Each candidate held approximately 21.6 percent of the overall vote, with Trahan leading by the thin marin, unofficial results from the Associated Press indicated.

Trahan, the former chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan, garnered 18,368 votes. Koh, the former chief of staff for Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, received 18,316.

While Trahan said Wednesday she’s confident that she is the party’s nominee for the Nov. 6 general election against Republican Rick Green, Koh’s campaign said in a statement that it is reviewing the recount process.

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And amid anticipation of a recount, Secretary of State William Galvin has already put the ballots under lock and key to prevent any tampering with the results.

So what would a recount entail?

In short, district voters — who’ve already had to be patient for initial results to finish coming in Wednesday morning in the crowded, 10-way primary election — would have to wait a little longer (potentially up to a week and a half) for the final tally.

Here’s what would happen next if a recount is called for:

Petitions 

Under Massachusetts laws, a district-wide recount in a state primary is allowed if the vote margin between candidates is less than half of 1 percent — a requirement this race has matched, making it likely this is the kind of recount voters would see if one is called.

A candidate seeking the recount must collect voter signatures on petitions and submit that paperwork to local registrars “no later than 5 p.m. on the third day after the state primary,” according to state laws. In this case, 3rd District candidates have until Friday at 5 p.m. to file 500 signatures from registered Democrats anywhere in the district, Debra O’Malley, a spokeswoman for Galvin’s office, confirmed to Boston.com Wednesday.

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From there, registrars would have until 5 p.m. on Sept. 11 (at the latest) to submit the petitions to Galvin’s office, she said.

A recount is completed at no cost to the candidate.

Candidates can collect more than the 500 signatures needed to trigger a recount, but, once that threshold has been reached and the petitions arrive at Galvin’s office, the process can continue, O’Malley said.

“The sooner we get the petitions, the sooner the secretary can call the recount,” she said.

The recount

Once the requirements are met, local registrars need to hold their recounts within six days, or by Sept. 17, which would also allow time for the state to place the nominated candidate on the general election absentee ballots, according to O’Malley.

Registrars must post notices of recounts in each town and city with at least three days notice under state laws.

But ultimately the recount process will last as long as it needs to, O’Malley said.

“We’re going to do what we have to do, but obviously we can’t print the (general election) ballots until we know who’s on the ballots,” she said.

Candidates have the right to have counsel and campaign observers present during the recounts, and the public is also allowed to attend and watch workers count the ballots by hand, according to O’Malley.

When it’s all done, the ballots are sealed again and remain with local registrars, she said.

Should a candidate be unsatisfied with the process or results, they aren’t afforded another recount under state laws, but, according to O’Malley, he or she could challenge the results in court.