Election Recounts

11/11/2020

ballot counting

Introduction

Recounts are conducted after an election either when the margin of victory for a race was narrow, or because someone (usually the losing candidate or their party) asks for a recount.

The laws governing recounts varies state by state, and a handful of states do not offer a recount process at all. In those states, a defeated candidate’s only remedy is to contest the result of the election in court. In the other states, a recount can be automatically triggered if results are within a certain margin, or it can be requested. And, recounts can be part of an election contest, ordered by a court.

Requesting a Recount

Forty-one states and the District of Columbia permit a losing candidate, a voter, a group of voters or other concerned parties to petition for a recount. In a few states, the vote totals for the top two candidates must be within a specified margin in order for the losing candidate to be able to request a recount. For example, in Georgia, a losing candidate may petition for a recount when results are within 0.5% of total votes cast for the office.

In summary:

  • Nine states do not have a requested recount process: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New YorkSouth Carolina and Tennessee. Of these, five -- Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, and South Carolina -- do have automatic recount provisions. (After Jan. 1, 2021, New York will also have an automatic recount provision.)
  • In three states, a recount may be conducted by court order: IllinoisMississippi and Tennessee.
  • In Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, recounts must be requested via a petition signed by a specified number of registered voters.
  • In 39 states, a candidate can request a recount. In 12 of these, the results must be within a specified margin for a candidate to request a recount: Delaware, Georgia, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia.
  • In six states, political parties can request recounts under certain conditions: Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Oregon, South Dakota and Washington.
  • Voters can request a recount in eight states: Alabama, Alaska, California, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and South Dakota.
  • In another seven states, voters can request a recount only on ballot questions (not candidate races): Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
  • Elections officials can order recounts under certain conditions in four states: California, Georgia, Oregon and Wyoming.
  • In Colorado, the governing body referring a measure and a referendum or initiative petition sponsor can request a recount.

Table 1: Parties Authorized to Request a Recount

State

Parties Authorized to Request a Recount

Alabama

Ala. Code § 17-16-21

Any qualified elector.

Alaska

Alaska Stat. § 15.20.430

A defeated candidate or 10 qualified voters.

Arizona

Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 16-662

There is no requested recount process; however, a recount can be ordered by a county superior court or conducted under the automatic recount provision.

Arkansas

Ark. Code § 7-5-319

Any candidate dissatisfied with the returns.

California

Cal. Elec. Code § 15610, 15620, 15640

  • An election official who has reasonable cause to believe ballots in the precinct have been miscounted or who is unable to explain the returns of their precinct.
  • Any voter.
  • By court order.

Colorado

Colo. Rev. Stat. § 1-10.5-106

  • A losing candidate, the political party or political organization representing such candidate.
  • Any petition representative (as defined by 1-40-113) for a losing ballot measure.
  • The governing body that referred a losing ballot measure.
  • The agent of an issue committee that is required to report contributions and either supported a ballot question or ballot issue that did not pass or opposed a ballot question or ballot issue that passed at the election.

Connecticut

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-323

There is no requested recount process; however, any elector or candidate aggrieved by any ruling of any election official may file a contest, which may result in a recount, and there is an automatic recount provisioin.

Delaware

15 Del. C. § 5702(c)

Any candidate for statewide office in a general election may apply to the court for a recount if the margin? is less than 1,000 votes or less than 0.5% of all votes cast for the two candidates, whichever amount is less.

Florida

There is no requested recount process; however there is an automatic recount provision.

Georgia

Ga. Code § 21-2-495

  • Where paper ballots are used and it appears there is a discrepancy or error, the superintendent may order a recount, or any candidate or political party may petition for one.
  • When results are within 0.5% of total votes cast for the office, a losing candidate may request a recount.

Hawaii

There is no requested recount process; however there is an automatic recount provision.

Idaho

Idaho Code § 34-2301

Any candidate or any person supporting or opposing a ballot measure.

Illinois

10 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/23-23.2

There is no requested recount process; recounts are only conducted by court order as part of a contest proceeding.

Indiana

Ind. Code Ann. § 3-12-11-2

Candidate or the chairman of a state or county political party.

Iowa

Iowa Code § 50.48

A candidate whose name was on the ballot of the precinct(s) where the recount is requested or any other person who received votes for that office in the precinct(s) where the recount is requested and who is legally qualified to seek and hold the office in question.

Kansas

Kan. Stat. § 25-3107

Any candidate.

Kentucky

Ky. Rev. Stat. § 120.185

Any candidate who was voted for in the election.

Louisiana

La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18:1313

Candidate for the office to be recounted.

Maine

21-A M.R.S. § 737-A

A candidate who is the apparent loser.

Maryland

Md. Code, Elec. Law § 12-101

A candidate for public or party office who has been defeated based on the certified results of any election.

Massachusetts

Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 54, § 135

  • Statewide recount: by a petition signed by at least 1,000 voters.
  • District recount: by a petition signed by one-fourth the number of voters required to sign nomination papers for state primary candidates in the appropriate district.

Michigan

MCLS § 168.879, MCLS § 168.866

  • A candidate for an office canvassed by the state board of canvassers or a candidate for representative in Congress or state representative or senator of a district located wholly in one county; candidate must allege that the candidate is aggrieved on account of fraud or mistake in the canvass of the votes by the inspectors of election or the returns made by the inspectors of election, or by a board of county canvassers or the board of state canvassers.
  • Chairperson of a state political party may petition on behalf of a candidate when a state Senate race has a differential of 500 votes or less, or a state representative race has a differential of 200 votes or less.
  • A candidate for office who believes he or she is aggrieved on account of fraud or mistake in the canvass or returns of the votes by the election inspectors may petition for a recount of the votes cast for that office in any precinct or precincts.

Minnesota

Minn. Stat. Ann. § 204C.35

A losing candidate whose name was on the ballot.

Mississippi

There is no recount process; an aggrieved person can seek remedy in court.

Missouri

Mo. Rev. Stat. § 115.601

Any contestant in a primary or other election contest who was defeated by less than 1% of the votes cast for the office and any person whose position on a question was defeated by less than 1% of the votes cast on the question.

Montana

Mont. Code § 13-16-201

A candidate who is defeated by a margin not exceeding 0.25% of the total votes cast or by a margin not exceeding 10 votes, whichever is greater.

100 electors of the state, representing at least five counties of the state, may petition for a recount of a ballot question that is decided by a margin not exceeding 0.25% of the total votes cast for and against the question.

Nebraska

Neb. Rev. Stat. § 32-1121

A losing candidate.

Nevada

Nev. Rev. Stat. § 293.407

A candidate at any election, or any registered voter of the appropriate political subdivision.

New Hampshire

N.H. Rev. Stat. § 660:1

Any candidate, provided the difference between the votes cast for the applying candidate and a candidate declared elected is less than 20% of the total votes cast in the towns which comprise the office to be recounted.

New Jersey

N.J. Stat. § 19:28-1

Any candidate or 10 voters.

New Mexico

N.M. Stat. § 1-14-14

Any candidate.

New York

There is no requested recount process; however, after Jan. 1, 2021, there will be an automatic recount provision.

North Carolina

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163-182.7

For non-statewide races: Any candidate, if the difference between the votes for that candidate and the votes for a prevailing candidate is not more than 1% of the total votes cast in the ballot item, or in the case of a multiseat ballot item not more than 1% of the votes cast for those two candidates. For statewide races, margin must be 0.5% of the votes cast in the ballot item, or 10,000 votes, whichever is less.

North Dakota

N.D. Cent. Code § 16.1-16-01

Any individual who failed to be elected in a general or special election by more than 0.5% and less than 2% of the highest vote cast for a candidate for that office.

Ohio

Ohio Rev. Code § 3515.01

  • Any candidate.
  • Any group of five or more qualified electors may file with the board of a county a written application for a recount of the votes cast at an election in any precinct in such county upon any question or issue.

Oklahoma

26 Okl. St. § 8-109, 26 Okl. St. § 8-111

  • Any candidate whose name appeared on the ballot.
  • Voters may petition for recounts of ballot measures.

Oregon

Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 258.161

  • A candidate or an officer of a political party on behalf of a candidate of the political party may file a demand that a recount in specified precincts in which votes were cast for the nomination or office for which the candidate received a vote.
  • An elector may file a demand for a recount in specified precincts in which votes were cast on any measure which appeared on the ballot.
  • A county clerk may file a demand for a recount in specified precincts in which votes were cast for the nomination or office for which a candidate received a vote or on any measure that appeared on the ballot.

Pennsylvania

25 Pa. Stat. § 3261

Any three qualified electors.

Rhode Island

R.I. Gen. Laws § 17-19-36

Any candidate.

South Carolina

There is no requested recount process; however there is an automatic recount provision.

South Dakota

S.D. Codified Laws §§ 12-21-8, 12-21-10, 12-21-11, 12-21-12, 12-21-14, 12-21-15

  • Any three registered voters of a precinct may request a recount of specified candidates or measures.
  • A candidate for an office voted upon in only one county, or any legislative candidate, if the candidate is defeated by a margin of not more than 2% of the total votes cast for all candidates for that office.
  • Any candidate for an office other than the Legislature is voted upon in more than one county, and has been defeated by a margin of 0.25% or less of the total vote cast for all candidates for such office.
  • At least 1,000 voters representing at least five counties of the state may petition for a recount on a state measure if the margin is 0.25% or less.
  • The chairman of the central committee of a state political party or any two or more candidates for presidential elector may file for a recount when the margin does not exceed 0.25%.

Tennessee

Tenn. Code § 2-17-117

A recount may only be ordered by a court, a legislative body, or “a tribunal having jurisdiction of an election contest.”

Texas

Tex. Elec. Code §§ 212.022, 212.023

Candidates, if the difference between the votes received by the candidate and the candidate elected is less than 10% of the votes cast for that candidate, if the candidate is tied or eligible for a recount, if the secretary of state certifies that errors occurred, or if the total number of votes received by all candidates for the office is less than 1,000.

Utah

Utah Code § 20A-4-401

  • A losing candidate, if the difference between the number of votes cast for a winning candidate in the race and a losing candidate in the race is equal to or less than .25% of the total number of votes cast for all candidates in the race.
  • A losing candidate, if total of all votes cast in the race is 400 or less, and the difference between the number of votes cast for a winning candidate in the race and a losing candidate in the race is one vote.

Vermont

17 V.S.A. § 2601

The losing candidate in an election for federal office, statewide office, county office or state senator, if the difference between the votes cast for the winning and losing candidate is 2% or less of the total votes cast for all candidates for the office, divided by the number of persons to be elected.

The losing candidate in an election for state representative, if the difference between the votes cast for the winning and losing candidate is 5% or less of the total votes cast for all candidates for the office, divided by the number of persons to be elected.

Virginia

Va. Code § 24.2-800

  • Any candidate defeated by a difference of not more than 1% of the total vote cast for the two such candidates.
  • 50 or more voters qualified to vote on a ballot question, if a difference of not more than 50 votes or 1% of the total vote cast for and against the question, whichever is greater.

Washington

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.64.011

  • An officer of a political party or any person for whom votes were cast in a primary who did not qualify for the general.
  • An officer of a political party or any person for whom votes were cast at any election.
  • Any group of five or more registered voters may file a written application for a recount of the votes or a portion of the votes cast upon any question or issue.

West Virginia

W. Va. Code § 3-6-9

Candidates.

Wisconsin

Wis. Stat. Ann. § 9.01

Any candidate voted for at any election who is an aggrieved party or any elector who voted upon any referendum question at any election.

Wyoming

Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 22-16-110, 22-16-109

  • Candidates.
  • County canvassing board may conduct a recount if irregularities are apparent.

 

Recount Costs

In most of the states that permit a candidate or other interested party to demand a recount, the petitioner is required to pay a deposit toward the cost of conducting the recount. If the recount reverses the result of the election, that person’s deposit is refunded. If the recount does not change election results, the petitioner is required to pay most of the costs associated with the recount. Automatic recounts are paid for by the state or county that conducts the recount.

Automatic Recounts

Twenty-one states (22 in 2021, after a new law, SB 7505B, takes effect in New York in 2021) and the District of Columbia provide for automatic or mandatory recounts, which are conducted if the margin between the top two candidates is within certain parameters. 

Table 2 details trigger thresholds.

Table 3, further down, details automatic recount deadlines.

Table 2: Automatic Recount Thresholds

State

Trigger

Alabama

Ala. Code § 17-16-20

Less than 0.5% of the votes cast for the office or the ballot measure

Alaska

Alaska Stat. § 15.20.430

Tie vote

Arizona

Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 16-661

Less than or equal to the lesser of the following: 0.1% of the votes cast for both candidates or measures

In the case of an office to be filled by state electors or a statewide initiated or referred measure: 200 votes if more than 25,000 votes were cast; 50 votes if 25,000 or fewer votes were cast; 200 votes in the case of a measure

In the case of a member of the state legislature: 50 votes

Colorado

Colo. Rev. Stat. § 1-10.5-101

Less than or equal to 0.5% of the highest vote cast in that election contest

Connecticut

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-311a

Less than 0.5% of the total votes cast for the office but not more than 2,000 votes, or less than 20 votes. A recount is automatic in the event of a tied vote as well.

Delaware

Del. Code tit. 15 § 5702(e)

Less than 1,000 votes or 0.5% of all votes cast for the two candidates, whichever is less (applies only to elections of state legislators and county offices)

District of Columbia

D.C. Code § 1-1001.11

Less than 1% of the total votes cast for the office

Florida

Fla. Stat. § 102.141(7)

0.5% of the votes cast on the office or measure

Hawaii

Haw. Rev. Stat. § 11-158

100 votes or fewer or 0.25% of the total votes cast for the contest, whichever is greater

Michigan

Mich. Comp. Laws § 168.880a

2,000 votes or less in a statewide primary or election

Nebraska

Neb. Rev. Stat. § 32-1119

1% or less of the votes received by the candidate who received the highest number of votes for the office if more than 500 total votes were cast, or 2% or less of the votes received by the candidate who received the highest number of votes for the office if 500 or less total votes were cast

New Mexico

N.M. Stat. Ann. § 1-14-24

Less than 0.25% of the total votes cast in the election for a federal or statewide office or a statewide ballot measure; less than 1% of the total votes cast in the election for most other offices, including state legislators

New York

N.Y. Elec. Law § 9-208(4)

(effective Jan. 1, 2021)

Margin of victory is 20 votes or less; or margin of victory is 0.5% or less; or in a contest where 1 million or more ballots are cast and the margin of victory is less than 5,000 votes. The term margin of victory shall mean the margin between all votes cast in the entire contest following the recanvass of votes.

North Dakota

N.D. Cent. Code § 16.1-16-01

Primary: 1% or less of highest vote cast for that office

General: 0.5% or less of highest vote cast for that office

Ballot Measures: 0.25% or less of total vote cast for measure

Ohio

Ohio Rev. Code § 3515.011

0.25% or less for statewide office or issue

0.5% for other offices

Oregon

Or. Rev. Stat. § 258.280

Tie vote, or not more than 0.2% of the total votes for both candidates

Pennsylvania

25 Pa. Stat. § 3154(g)

0.5% or less of the votes cast for the office for statewide candidates and ballot questions

South Carolina

S.C. Code § 7-17-280

Less than 1% of total votes cast for the office

South Dakota

S.D. Codified Laws § 12-21-16

Tie vote

Texas

Tex. Elec. Code § 216.001

Tie vote

Washington

Wash. Rev. Code § 29A.64.021

Less than 2,000 votes and also less than 0.5% of the total number of votes cast for both candidates

Wyoming

Wyo. Stat. § 22-16-109

When the difference in number of votes cast for the winning candidate receiving the least number of votes and the number of votes cast for the losing candidate receiving the greatest number of votes is less than 1% of the number of votes cast for the winning candidate receiving the least number of votes cast

 

Table 3: Automatic Recount Deadlines

In some states, deadlines to initiate or complete an automatic recount are established in statute; in other states it is left unsaid. Below are deadlines for 23 states; it is possible that other states have deadlines as well.

Alaska

Alaska Stat. §15.20.480

Within 10 days after it begins

Arkansas

Recounts must be completed by the time of certification, 15 days after the election for general elections and 10 days after for all other elections (per communications with the Ark. State Board of Election Commissioners).

Colorado

Colo. Rev. Stat. § 1-10.5-102(2) and -106(2)

By the 35th day after election for automatic recounts; 37th day for requested recounts

Florida

Fla. Stat. § 102.141(7)(c)

By 3 p.m. on the 9th day after the election; recounts not completed by this deadline require a second certification of election results after the recount is completed

Georgia

Ga. Code. Ann. § 21-2-495(d)

Recounts conducted because an error or discrepancy is suspected are completed before the canvass is finished

Hawaii

Haw. Rev. Stat. § 11-158(c)

Within 72 hours after the polls close

Indiana

Ind. Code § 3-12-11-19.5, 3-12-11-21

Presidential electors: not later than six days before electors meet; state legislators: by Dec. 20

 

Iowa

Iowa Code § 50.48(4)(c)

By the 18th day after the county canvass; state canvass is delayed for offices undergoing a recount

Kansas

Kan. Stat. § 25-3107(b) and (c)(3)

By 5 p.m. on the fifth day following the filing of the request; completed before canvass is completed

 

Louisiana

La. Stat. § 18:1313

Conducted at 10 a.m. on the fifth day after the election

 

Massachusetts

Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 54, § 137

No completion deadline, but certification of results is delayed in the event of a recount

Michigan

Mich. Comp. Laws § 168.875

Within 30 days after the last day for filing counter petitions or the first day that recounts may begin

Missouri

Mo. Rev. Stat. § 115.601(3)

State-conducted recounts: within 20 days of the request

 

Nevada

Nev. Rev. Stat. § 293.405

Within 10 days of the request

 

New Mexico

N.M. Stat. Ann. § 1-14-16

Within 10 days after receiving request or notice of automatic recount

 

North Dakota

N.D. Cent. Code §16.1-16-01(4)

Recounts of state legislative races must be held within 11 days of the completion of the state canvass, and within 18 days for statewide races

Ohio

Presidential electors: not later than six days before the meeting of the electors (Ohio Rev. Code § 3515.041); all other offices: 10 days after the application is filed (Ohio Rev. Code § 3515.03)

Pennsylvania

25 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3154(g)(5), 25 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3154(f)

Automatic recounts must be completed by noon on the first Tuesday following the third Wednesday after the election; count certification is delayed if a recount/recanvass is requested

South Dakota

S.D. Codified Laws § 25-21-11

Recounts of legislative districts comprising more than one county: 14 days

Virginia

Va. Code § 24.2-801.1(E)

For presidential electors, must be completed at least six days before the time for the meeting of the electors

Wisconsin

Wis. Stat. § 9.01(1)(ar)(3)

Not more than 13 days after the order directing the recount

 

 

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