arrowSection 5.3 - Recounts and Other Remedies

This topic is monitored by Moritz Law Professor Daniel Tokaji

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State Recount Laws

Below is a chart summarizing the recount laws of the 50 states. They are broken down into four categories: (1) automatic - recounts that take place automatically, regardless of the margin of victory, (2) candidate initiated - recounts that may be requested by a candidate, (3) voter initiated - recounts may be requested by voter, (4) close election - recounts take place if the margin of victory falls beneath a prescribed numerical threshold. A description of state recount laws is found below each state's listing.

State Type of Recount Provided for by Law
Automatic Candidate Initiated Voter Initiated Close Election
Alabama
 
 
 
When a candidate is defeated by no more than one half of one percent of the votes cast for the office, a recount will occur unless the candidate submits a written waiver.
Alaska
 
 
A defeated candidate or 10 qualified voters may file an application within 5 days after the completion of the state review for a recount of the votes for any particular office.
Arizona
 
 
 
A recount is required when the margin between the 2 candidates receiving the greatest number of votes for a particular office is less than or equal to the lesser of the following: 1) one-tenth of one percent of the number of votes cast for both such candidates 2) 200 votes in the case of an office to be filled by state electors and for which the total number of votes cast is more than 25,000 3) 50 votes in the case of an office to be filled by state electors and for which the total number of votes cast is 25,000 or less 4) 50 votes in the case of a member of the legislature 5) 10 votes in the case of an office to be filled by the electors of city, town, county or subdivision thereof.
Arkansas
 
 
 
Any candidate voted for who may be dissatisfied with the returns from any precinct may petition for a recount of the votes cast therein.
California
 
 
During the official canvass of every election in which a voting system is used, the official conducting the election shall conduct a public manual tally of the ballots tabulated by those devices cast in one percent of the precincts chosen at random by the elections official. In addition, voters may file requests seeking a recount of the ballots.
Colorado
 
 
A recount of any election contest shall be held if the difference between the highest number of votes cast and the next highest number of votes cast is less than or equal to one half of one percent of the highest vote cast in that election contest. Whenever a recount is not required and interested party (including a candidate who lost the election) may submit a notarized written request for a recount. Colorado Revised Statutes §§ 1-10.5-101, 1-10.5-102, 1-10.5-103, 1-10.5-10631-10-1207 (*cannot link directly to section)
Connecticut
 
 
 
When the plurality of an elected candidate for an office over the vote for a defeated candidate receiving the next highest number of votes is either 1) less than a vote equivalent to one-half of one percent of the total number of votes cast for the office but not more than 2,000 votes or 2) less than 20 votes, there shall be a recanvass of the returns unless the defeated candidate submits a written waiver.
Delaware
 
 
 
Any candidate for a statewide office in a general election may apply for a recount if the number of votes separating such candidate and the closest opposing candidate is less than 1,000 votes or less than one half of one percent of all votes cast for the two candidates, whichever is less.
Florida
 
 
 
If a candidate for any office is defeated by one-half of one percent or less of the votes cast for such office the board responsible for certifying the results of the vote shall order a recount of the votes cast with respect to such office. Florida Statutes §102.141 and §102.166
Georgia
 
 
A defeated candidate may petition for a recount if the difference between the number of votes cast for the candidate who has been declared elected and number of votes cast for a candidate not declared elected is not more than one percent of the total votes cast for the particular office in question. In addition, if it appears that there is a discrepancy in the returns recorded, either a defeated candidate or three electors of any precinct (where voting machines have been used) may petition for a recanvass of the votes.
Hawaii
 
 
 
 
None found.
Idaho
 
 
 
A defeated candidate for election to a federal, state or county office may submit a written request for a recount of the votes cast when the difference between the vote cast for that candidate and for the winning candidate is less than or equal to one-tenth of one percent of the total votes cast for that office. Moreover, any candidate for federal, state or county office may request a recount within 20 days of the canvass of such election.
Illinois
 
 
A defeated candidate for election to a federal, state or county office may submit a written request for a recount of the votes cast when the difference between the vote cast for that candidate and for the winning candidate is less than or equal to one-tenth of one percent of the total votes cast for that office. Moreover, any candidate for federal, state or county office may request a recount within 20 days of the canvass of such election.
Indiana
 
 
 
A defeated candidate may file a verified petition for a recount with the election division.
Iowa
 
 
 
The board of canvassers shall order a recount if a written request is made by a candidate or any other person who received votes for the particular office in the precinct where the recount is requested not later than 5 pm on the third day following the canvass of the election in question. Iowa Code §§ 50.48, Iowa Code § 50.49, Iowa Code § 50.50, Iowa Code § 43.56
Kansas
 
 
Any candidate may request the recount of ballots cast in all or only in specified voting areas for the office for which such person is a candidate. In addition, any registered elector who cast a ballot in a question submitted election may request a recount in all or only specified voting areas to determine the result of the election.
Kentucky
 
 
As part of the official canvass, a manual recount of randomly selected precincts representing three to five percent of the total ballots cast in each election shall be completed. In addition, any candidate for election to any state, county, district or city office (with a few exceptions) who was voted for at a regular election may petition for a recount of the ballots.
Louisiana
 
 
 
 
None found.
Maine
 
 
If the margin between the number of votes cast for the leading candidate and the number of votes cast for the second place candidate is less than one percent of the total number of votes cast in that race, a recount is presumed necessary. In addition, a losing candidate may request a recount in any election by filing a written request with the Secretary of State within 5 business days after the election.
Maryland
 
 
 
A candidate who has been defeated may petition for a recount of the votes cast for the office sought.
Massachusetts
 
 
A voter initiated petition for a recount may be filed on or before 5 pm on the tenth day following an election, provided that the written request for the recount is signed by the number of voters required by §135 and is signed by the candidate on whose behalf the recount is being conducted. State-wide recounts may only be authorized if the difference between the number of votes cast for the two leading candidates for the office is one half of one percent or less of the total votes cast for such office.
Michigan
 
A candidate for any office (with a few exceptions) may petition for a recount of the votes cast for that office in any precinct, provided that the petition is filed not later than 48 hours after the completion of the canvass of votes cast at an election. A qualified a registered elector who believes that there has been fraud or error committed by the inspectors of an election may also petition for a recount of the votes cast in any precinct, provided that the petition is filed not later than 2 days after the final certification of the canvass of votes. A recount of all precincts in the state shall be conducted any time a statewide election shall be certified by the board of state canvassers as having been determined by a vote differential of 2,000 votes or less.
Minnesota
 
 
In a state general election when the difference between the votes of a candidate who would otherwise be declared as elected and the votes of any other candidate for that office 1) is less than one-half of one percent of the total number of votes counted for that office or 2) is ten votes or less if the total number of votes cast for that office is 400 votes or less the canvassing board shall recount the votes. A losing candidate may request a recount at the candidate's own expense when the vote difference is greater than the difference stated above. Statutes §204C.35
Mississippi
 
 
 
 
None found.
Missouri
 
 
 
Any contestant in an election contest who was defeated by less than one percent of the votes cast for the office and any contestant who received the second highest number of votes cast for that office if two or more are to be elected and who was defeated by less than one percent of the votes cast shall have the right to request a recount of the votes cast for the office by filing the request with the secretary of state no later than seven days after the certification of the election.
Montana
 
 
 
A recount must be conducted if a candidate for a congressional office, a state or district office voted on in more than one county, the legislature or judge of the district court is defeated by a margin not exceeding one-quarter of one percent of the total votes cast for all candidates for the same position and the defeated candidate, within 5 days after the official canvass, files a petition with the secretary of state. If a candidate for public office is defeated by a margin exceeding one-quarter of one percent but not exceeding one-half of one percent of the total votes cast for all candidates for the same position, he may, within 5 days after the official canvass, file a petition and post a bond to cover all the costs of the recount.
Nebraska
 
 
 
If a candidate failed to be elected by a margin of 1) one percent or less of the votes received by the candidate who received the highest number of votes for the office at an election in which more than 500 total votes were cast or 2) two percent or less of the votes received by the candidate who received the highest number of votes for the office at an election in which 500 or less total votes were cast, then such candidate shall be entitled to a recount by filing a written request with the secretary of state. If a candidate fails to be elected by more than the margin stipulated above, the losing candidate may submit a certified written request for a recount at his or her expense.
Nevada
 
 
A candidate defeated at any election may demand a recount of the vote if within 3 working days after the certification of the vote the candidate files his demand in writing. Any voter may demand a recount of the vote for a ballot question if within 3 working days after the certification of the vote the candidate files his demand in writing. Nevada Revised Statutes § 293.403 and § 293.405
New Hampshire
 
 
 
Any person for whom a vote was cast and recorded for any office at a town election may, no later than the Friday following the election, apply in writing for a recount of the ballots cast for such office. New Hampshire Revised Statutes §660:2, §660:3, §660:4, §660.5 and §660.6
New Jersey
 
 
Any candidate at any election may, on or before the second Saturday following such election, apply for a recount of the votes cast. Any ten voters may, within a like time, apply for a recount of the votes cast at an election upon any public question.
New Mexico
 
 
 
Any candidate for any office for which the state or county canvassing board issues a certificate of nomination or election may, within 6 days after the completion of the canvass, apply for a recount of paper ballots or a recheck of the votes shown on voting machines cast in the precinct. New Mexico Statutes §§1-14-14, 1-14-15, 3-8-68 (*cannot link directly to section)
New York
 
 
 
Within 15 days after each general, specific or primary election and within 7 days after every village election conducted by the board of elections at which voting machines are used, the board of elections shall in each county using voting machines, shall recanvass the vote cast upon the voting machines according to the standards outlined in McKinney's Election Law § 9-208.
North Carolina
 
 
 
In a ballot item within the jurisdiction of the State Board of elections, a candidate may submit a written demand for a recount if the difference between the votes for that candidate and the votes for a prevailing candidate are not more than 1) for a non-statewide ballot item, one percent of the total votes cast in the ballot item or in the case of a multi-seat ballot item, one percent of the votes cast for those two candidates. 2) for a statewide ballot item, one-half of one percent of the votes cast in the ballot item, or in the case of a multi-seat ballot item, one-half of one percent of the votes cast for those two candidates or 10,000 votes, whichever is less.
North Dakota
 
 
A recount must be conducted when a person failed to be elected in general or special election by one-half of one percent or less of the highest vote cast for a candidate for that office. A demand for a recount may be made by any person who failed to be elected in a general or special election by more than one-half of one percent and less than two percent of the highest vote cast for a candidate for that office, provided that the demand be made in writing within 3 days after the canvass of the votes and accompanied with a bond in an amount sufficient to pay for the cost of the recount.
Ohio
 
If the number of votes cast for the declared winning candidate in a district election does not exceed the number of votes cast for the declared losing candidate by a margin of one-half of one percent or more of the total vote, a recount shall be conducted. If the number of votes cast for the declared winning candidate in a statewide election does not exceed the number of voted cast for the declared losing candidate by a margin of one-fourth of one percent or more of the total vote, a recount shall be conducted. Any candidate who was not declared elected may submit an application for a recount of the votes. Any group of 5 or more qualified electors may also file an application for a recount of the votes at an election upon any question or issue, provided that they either voted "Yes" or in favor of an issue that was defeated of they voted "No" or against an issue that was adopted. Ohio Revised Code §3515.01 – 3515.071
Oklahoma
 
 
A losing candidate may request a recount of the ballots cast in an election. For elections on issues or questions when no candidate is involved, a recount may only be authorized after a registered voter and participant in the election files a petition with the election board signed by the number of voters required by 26 Okl.St.Ann. § 8-111(b)-(c).
Oregon
 
A full recount of the votes cast shall be ordered if 1) two or more candidates have an equal and the highest number of votes or 2) the difference in the number of votes cast for a candidate apparently elected to the office and the closest defeated opponent is not more than one-fifth of one percent of the total votes for both candidates. A losing candidate may file a demand for a recount to be made in specified precincts. An elector may file a demand for a recount to be made in specified precincts in which votes were cast on any measure that appeared on the ballot.
Pennsylvania
 
 
 
Three or more qualified electors in any general, municipal or primary election may file a petition for a recount by alleging fraud or error in the computation of votes cast for any office in an election district. Pennsylvania Statutes §3261, §3262 and §3459 are all available (this is an unofficial compilation by Thomas E. Martin, Jr., Esq.)
Rhode Island
 
 
 
Any candidate may petition the state board of elections to conduct a recount by re-reading the programmed memory devices and comparing the results with the totals obtained on election night. If, after the recount, the candidate still trails the winning candidate by less than five percent and a discrepancy still exists, the candidate may request another recount to be performed by re-feeding the computer ballots into the voting equipment. If the candidate then trails the apparent winning candidate by less than three percent, the candidate may then request a manual recount of the votes cast.
South Carolina
 
 
 
Whenever the difference between the number of votes received by a candidate who has been declared elected to an office in a general election and the number of votes received by any losing candidate is not more than one percent of the total votes which were cast, a recount shall be ordered unless such candidates waive a recount in writing.
South Dakota
 
 
If any candidate for an office, other than the Legislature, in a state or district election is defeated by a margin which does not exceed one-fourth of one percent of the total vote cast for all candidates for such office, the candidate may file a petition for a recount within 3 days after the completion of the official canvass. Any 3 registered voters of a precinct may also petition for the recount of votes as to the office or question specified, provided that the petition is filed within 10 days after the election.
Tennessee
 
 
 
A recount may be ordered by any court or legislative body under any of the following circumstances: 1) a tie vote 2) an indication of fraud if the number of votes affected would be sufficient to change the result of an election 3) in any other instance the court finds that a recount is warranted.
Texas
 
 
 
 
None found.
Utah
 
 
When any candidate loses by not more than a total of one vote per voting precinct in a regular general election, the candidate may file a request for a recount within 7 days after the canvass. Any ten voters who voted in an election when any ballot proposition was on the ballot may file a request for a recount within 7 days of the canvass.
Vermont
 
 
A losing candidate may petition for a recount if the difference between the number of votes cast for a winning candidate and the number of votes cast for a losing candidate is less than five percent of the total votes cast for all the candidates for an office, divided by the number of persons to be elected. The result of an election for any office, other than for general assembly, or public question may be contested by any legal voter entitled to vote on the office or public question to be contested, provided that the complaint is filed within 15 days after the election in question, or if there is a recount, within 10 days after the court issues its judgment on the recount.
Virginia
 
 
A defeated candidate may request a recount of the votes if there is between any candidate apparently elected and any candidate apparently defeated a difference of not more than one percent of the total vote cast for the two such candidates. Fifty or more qualified voters may petition for a recount of the votes if the difference between the vote for a question and the vote against a question is not more than 50 votes or one percent of the total vote cast for and against the question, whichever is greater.
Washington
 
If the official canvass of votes at any election reveals that the difference in the number of votes cast for a candidate apparently elected to any office and the number of votes cast for the closest apparently defeated opponent is less than 2,000 votes and also less than one-half of one percent of the total number of votes cast for both candidates, the canvassing board shall conduct a recount of all votes cast on that position. If the difference is less than 150 votes and also less than one-fourth of one percent of the total number of votes cast for both candidates, the votes shall be recounted manually. A losing candidate may also apply for a recount of the votes if the margin was greater than that specified above. A group of five or more registered voters may file a written application for a recount of the votes cast on any question or issue.
West Virginia
 
 
During the official canvass and any requested recount, at least five percent of the precincts are to be chosen at random and the ballot card cast therein counted manually. A losing candidate may also demand a recount within 48 hours after the certification of the election results.
Wisconsin
 
 
Any candidate voted for at an election or any elector who voted on a referendum question at any election may request a recount. The petition shall be filed no later than 5 pm on the third business day following the last meeting day of the last board of canvassers. Wisconsin Statutes §9.01 (*cannot link directly to section); section amended by 2003 Wisconsin Act 265
Wyoming
 
There shall be a recount of the votes cast for any office in which the difference in number of votes cast for the winning candidate receiving the least number of votes and the losing candidate receiving the greatest number of votes is less than one percent of the number of votes cast for the winning candidate receiving the least number of votes cast for that office. A recount shall also be granted if a losing candidate files an affidavit alleging that fraud or error occurred in the canvassing of the votes. In addition, a recount of votes of a ballot proposition will be made if requested in an affidavit signed by 25 electors registered in a district voting on the question or if the proposition receives a number of votes, greater or lesser, within one percent of the number of votes required for passage.

[Posted September 12, 2004]