Election Law @ Moritz

Information and Analysis

2008 Primary Post-Election Timeline

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Here is the timeline for what happens in five states after the close of polls in a Presidential primary (the timeline for general elections, or for non-Presidential races, is often different).  Typically election workers conduct a preliminary count of all votes cast in the precinct, then forward that information to the local election authority in the form of "precinct returns."  The local election authority then "canvasses" or amalgamates the precinct returns into a return that represents voting in the entire election jurisdiction, typically a county or city.  Provisional and absentee votes are also generally counted during this period and added to the general vote totals.  The resulting returns are then forwarded to the Secretary of State or other chief election authority for the state, who performs another canvass to obtain statewide totals.  The chief election authority then "certifies" the winner in a formal written document.  This certification date is important, because it typically starts the clock ticking on deadlines for disappointed candidates to file requests for recounts or to file lawsuits contesting the result of the election.  Candidates who do not meet these deadlines will probably have no remedy for the perceived wrongs they have suffered.


New York

Precinct canvassing begin-“at the close of polls” §9-100

Precinct returns submitted-“within twenty-four hours after the completion of the returns” (in the City it happens “within twenty-four hours after the close of polls”) §9-124

Local canvassing begin—no info

Provisional ballot canvass begin—no later than eight days after primary election §9-209

Provisional ballot canvass end—“before completing the canvass of votes….” §9-209

Absentee ballot canvass begin-- no later than eight days after primary election §9-209

Absentee ballot canvass end--“before completing the canvass of votes….” §9-209

Local returns submitted—returns submitted “upon the completion of the canvass….”   §9-200.  Board of elections shall complete canvass at the earliest time possible or “within nine days from the day upon which the primary election is held.”

State canvassing begin—“upon receipt... of tabulated statements of votes at a primary election” § 9-202

State certification—“forthwith” upon completion of the canvass § 9-202

Recount filing deadline for Presidential primary—full recount of “voting machines” happens automatically within fifteen days after each primary (the wording of the statute clearly indicates lever or punch-card machines and it is not clear whether this provision would apply to newer types of technology that will soon be adopted in New York). § 9-208.  With respect to more modern technology, 3% audit of voter verifiable records automatically occurs beginning “within seven days after every primary…” and may lead to broader recount if court finds that a found discrepancy requires further investigation or there is substantial possibility that mistake changed the result.  § 16-113.

Recount must be completed and new results certified by—no info.

Election contest filing deadline—ten days after date of primary or filing of certificate of nomination.  §16-102.  One court has identified the date of the certificate, as opposed to conduct of the actual election, as the appropriate trigger.  Rumsey v. Niebal, 730 N.Y.S.2d 591, 592 (N.Y.A.D. 4 Dept., 2001).  Note that this deadline occurs before any recount is likely to be completed.

Election contest must be completed by—no info.  However, proceeding shall have preference over all other causes.  §16-116.

Court that will hear primary election contest—State supreme court.  §16-100.

Illinois—note that Illinois permits only 25% of precincts to be recounted.  10 ILCS 5/1-3.  Full recounts can be had only in an election contest and only where they are shown to be justified.  Illinois does not permit federal election contests.  Young v. Mikva, 66 Ill.2d 579, 582-583 (Ill., 1977).

Precinct canvassing begin—immediately upon close of polls.  10 ILCS 5/17-18; 5/18-8.

Precinct returns submitted—immediately after they are completed.  10 ILCS 5/17-22; 5/18-13.

Local canvassing begin—Within 21 days after the close of the election.  10 ILCS 5/22-1.

Provisional ballot canvass begin—No info

Provisional ballot canvass end—Fourteen days after Election Day.  10 ILCS 5/18A-15.

Absentee ballot canvass begin—On Election Day.  10 ILCS 5/19-8.

Absentee ballot canvass end—“…before the close of the period for counting provisional ballots….”  10 ILCS 5/19-8.

Local returns submitted—submitted to state board of elections one calendar day following the completion of local canvassing.  10 ILCS 5/22-15.

State canvassing begin—Within 31 days after election, and sooner if all returns are received.  10 ILCS 5/22-7.  The statute says that this deadline applies to canvassing of various races and President/Presidential nomination is not mentioned.  However, there is no other statute for multijurisdictional canvassing so this is the best guide.

State certification—no info

Recount filing deadline for Presidential primary—Within 5 days after the last day for proclamation of the results of the canvass.  10 ILCS 5/22-9.1.  To be entitled to a recount, a candidate must have obtained 95% of the vote of the apparent winner.  Results are unofficial and do not automatically supersede the original results, but are only evidence that may be presented in an election contest.

Recount must be completed and new results certified by—no info.

Election contest filing deadline—Filing deadline is within 15 days of the official proclamation of results.  10 ILCS 5/23-1.2a. 

Election contest must be completed by—no good info.  Contestees have twenty days from the filing of the petition to respond and contestants have thirty days to make discovery requests.  10 ILCS 5/23-1.6a.  Contestees have another five days to add their own discovery requests, or 31-36 days from filing of petition if contestant makes no discovery request.

Court that will hear primary election contest— Ordinarily an election contest for a statewide office would be heard in the state supreme court (but remember, there are no federal contests).  10 ILCS 5/23-1.1a.


Precinct canvassing begin—California law allows a “semifinal official canvass” to occur in-precinct or at a central location.  See §15200 to 15290.  If ballots are counted in-precinct, the semifinal canvass will occur at some point after the close of polls (the statute does not get very specific).  §15152.  No timeline is stated for the semifinal canvass when it occurs at a central counting location.

Precinct returns submitted—In semifinal canvass, results are submitted immediately if ballots are counted in the precinct.  §14441; 14433.  No timeline is stated for the semifinal canvass when it occurs at a central counting location.


Local canvassing begin—The official canvass—as opposed to the semifinal official canvass mentioned in the previous section-- begins no later than the Thursday following the election.  §15301.  It continues for at least six hours per day except weekends and holidays until it is done.

Provisional ballot canvass begin—No timeline is stated, except that counting occurs according to the rules that apply to the processing of vote by mail ballots.  §15350; see also §14310 et seq.  No timeline is stated for vote by mail ballots except that the canvassing shall begin no later than the Thursday following the election.  §15110; 15301.

Absentee ballot canvass begin-- No later than the Thursday following the election.  §15110; 15301.

Absentee ballot canvass end— No direct info, but presumably this must be completed within 28 days of the election, when official local results are certified.

Local returns submitted—Local official should certify results within 28 days of the election.  §15372.  The results must be submitted to the SoS within 35 days of the election.

State canvassing begin—SoS will compile results as received, starting with results of semifinal official canvass.  §15500.

State certification—SoS, not later than 32nd day after the election, shall file results of canvassing and issue certification to delegates.  §6220; 6420; 6421.

Recount filing deadline for Presidential primary—voter must request within five days of the 29th day after the election.  § 15620.  Recounts also may occur by order of election official, but no timeline is specified.  §15610.  They may also occur by order of court as part of an election contest, but again, no timeline is specified.  §15640.

Recount must be completed and new results certified by—recount will begin not more than seven days after receipt of recount request.  §15626.

Election contest filing deadline— The statute discussing primary contests says the deadline is five days after completion of the official canvass by the local election authority that completes its canvass last.  §16421; 16462.

Election contest must be completed by—No timeline is mentioned.  See §16740 et seq.

Court that will hear primary election contest—There are two types of contests:  (1) contests due to an incorrect count and (2) contests based on ineligibility, violation of California’s ethics laws, or voting fraud.  §16460; 16440.  For the first type of contest, jurisdiction lies in the superior court (trial court) of the county judicial district where the disputed ballots were cast.  §16461.  Where disputed ballots exist in more than one jurisdiction, contestants will have to file multiple contests and, following judgment, the SoS will merge and amend the results.  §16742.  For the second type of contest, jurisdiction lies in any county judicial district where there was voting for the office in question.  §16441.  There shall be no change of venue from where the contest is filed.

Appeal—“The judgment of the court is final in every respect.  No party may appeal.”  §16940.

New Jersey

Precinct canvassing begin—Where “electronic voting machines” (optical scan systems) are used:  None (New Jersey counts optical scan ballots at central counting facilities).  §19:53A-7.  DRE systems seem to be excluded from the definition of “electronic voting machine.” §19:53A-1.  It is unclear whether counts of DRE machines, which are used in most New Jersey jurisdictions, would be governed by this provision.  An old statute that appears to describe the procedure for lever machines indicates that votes cast on that technology should be counted in-precinct.  §19:52-6.

Precinct returns submitted—Optical scan systems use central count, so there are no precinct returns.  §19:53A-7.  Lever-type machines were counted in-precinct and precinct returns were sent out upon completion of the count, but no timeline is specified.  §19:52-5.


Local canvassing begin—No info.  See §19:53A-8; 19:19-8 to 19:20-9.

Provisional ballot canvass begin—No info, except provisionals shall be processed according to absentee procedures.  §19:53C-13.

Provisional ballot canvass endSee above.

Absentee ballot canvass begin—Counting will begin on day of election and results will be certified immediately when canvass is complete.  §19:57-31.

Absentee ballot canvass end—No info.

Local returns submitted—Within three days after canvassing is completed.  See §19:19-13.

State canvassing begin—As soon as practicable but no later than the 28th day after the election.  §19:21-1.

State certification—No info.  See §19:21-1 to 19:22-8.

Recount filing deadline for Presidential primary—Fifteen days following the election.  §19:28-1.

Recount must be completed and new results certified by—Determined by judge who oversees recount.  §19:28-3.

Election contest filing deadline—Not later than 10 days after the primary.  §19:29-3.  However, if there is a recount, the petition may be filed within 10 days after the result has been determined.

Election contest must be completed by—Trial shall bet set for a time not more than 30 nor less than 15 days after the filing of the petition.  §19:29-4.  No deadline for final judgment is stated.

Court that will hear primary election contest—The courtroom of a Superior Court judge assigned by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  §19:29-2.

Appeal—Appeal goes to Appellate Division of Superior Court.  §19:29-11.  No timeline is specified.


Precinct canvassing begin—Georgia contains separate code sections describing precinct operations for each type of technology in use.  See §§21-2-400 to 21-2-486.  Currently Georgia uses only DRE machines.  GA ADC 183-1-12-.01.  Georgia law currently does not describe the timeline for precinct canvassing of DRE votes.

Precinct returns submitted—See above.


Local canvassing begin—At or before noon on the day following the primary.  §21-2-493.

Provisional ballot canvass begin—At the earliest time possible, but no later than the day after the primary.  §21-2-419.

Provisional ballot canvass end—Two days following primary.  §21-2-419.

Absentee ballot canvass begin—Absentee ballots cannot be counted prior to 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.  §21-2-386.

Absentee ballot canvass end—No direct info, but presumably absentee count should be complete by the time local returns are submitted (see below).

Local returns submitted—Not later than 5:00 p.m. on the seventh day following the election.  §21-2-493; 21-2-497.

State canvassing begin—Immediately upon receipt of returns.  §21-2-499.

State certification—Not later than 5:00 p.m. on the fourteenth day following the election.  §21-2-499.  However, depending on how one interprets this provision, it might only apply in Presidential general elections.

Recount filing deadline for Presidential primary—Recount requested of local officials or Secretary of State can occur any time prior to local certification.  §21-2-495.  Post-certification recount may be requested if margin of victory is less than 1% of votes cast.  Id.  No deadline for filing is stated.

Recount must be completed and new results certified by—No info.

Election contest filing deadline—Five days after certification.  §21-2-254.

Election contest must be completed by—Answer must be filed between five and ten days after service of the complaint.  §21-2-254.  Hearings start within 20 days of date that answer is required (literally interpreted, the statute says that the judge only has to announce the hearing date within 20 days, but it doesn’t actually have to occur within 20 days—but that is probably not what the code means). §21-2-525.  No deadline for judgment is stated.

Court that will hear primary election contest—Superior (trial) court of the county in which the defendant resides.  §21-2-253.  Because no Presidential candidate lives in Georgia, one can probably get around this rule because it is also proper to file a lawsuit against a local election administrator to place jurisdiction in that locale.  §21-2-520; Ollila v. Graham, 126 Ga.App. 288, 289 (Ga.App. 1972).  All Superior court judges are elected on a nonpartisan basis for a term of four years.  Const., Art 6, § 7.

Appeal—Directly to the state Supreme Court within ten days of judgment.  § 21-2-528.