Welcome to the Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota (CEIMN) Award Winning State Recount Laws Searchable Database. We have created this tool to describe and catalog state recount laws in a manner that is useful and understandable to interested voters, election integrity leaders, election officials, legislators and the media. We have also developed a useful set of terms (see our glossary below). We encourage you to look at the "Read more about the recount database" section below where you will learn how to use the database, what is and is not included, and a description of some of the key terms - Recount, Retabulation, and Electronic Review.
The database premiered on October 21, 2010 and we update it on a regular basis. If you have any questions or if you know of information that needs to be updated or revised, contact CEIMN founder and former director Mark Halvorson at email@example.com. Be sure to also check out our audit searchable database.
We chose to highlight the voting system and counting methods used for each state at the top of each state profile in order to call attention to the manner in which votes are cast, recorded, and counted. We do so because we agree with the majority of security experts who see an independent voter-verified record as crucial for voting system security and as a check against possible electronic errors.
Of the two systems currently allowing for such independent records, we believe that a paper-based system of optically scanned ballots, accompanied by accessible ballot-marking devices, offers definite advantages over direct-recording electronic systems (DREs) with a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT). These advantages include: reliability, auditability, recountability, and ease of use for voters and election officials.
We originally began our research for the database by reviewing previous surveys of recount laws, but as we soon found, the small number of terms used in these surveys needed to be greatly expanded. In order to accomplish this, we developed several new terms. The need for this was underscored by the fact that each state uses very similar terms in extraordinarily different ways: “automatic” and “mandatory,” for instance, can describe very different forms of recounts from one state to another. One state using the term “automatic recount” conducts a recount if the close vote margin falls under a given percentage; another state conducts a recount automatically upon the receipt of a candidate’s request for a recount. The previous small set of terms collapses under greater scrutiny.
This is especially true for the term “recount.” While nearly all states use the term, in reality it can refer to enormously different processes. In one state, election officials may individually examine each ballot, and attempt to individually verify voter intent; in another, their only task may be to examine the printouts from the DREs (direct recording electronic) voting machines. In states using identical voting systems, the law may prescribe different procedures for conducting a recount. For instance, in states using paper ballots, provisions may require that ballots are to be recounted by hand while in other states paper ballots are retabulated by machine. Yet each state defines their action as a “recount.” The use of a single term has obscured the true variety of what actually takes place.
Thus we have sought to help create meaningful distinctions between the different types of processes that, up until now, have all gone by the single name “recount” in state law. Under our “Counting Method” section you will find a number of terms used, to help capture the true diversity of “recount” procedures. Here are three key terms:
Recount: We have retained the use of the word “recount” for states that recount voter-marked paper ballots and voter-verifiable paper records by hand.
Retabulation: This term refers to feeding paper ballots into a machine to be automatically counted. This differs from a recount, where ballots are counted by hand.
Electronic review: We have chosen to use the term “electronic review” to describe procedures states use to check paperless DRE tallies. What constitutes an “electronic review” varies, as some states simply examine the printouts from the DREs, some run the same electronic tabulation protocols as election day, and others print the totals from the results summary. In addition, some states do not prescribe in statute how to 'recount' votes cast on paperless DREs or their statutes are unclear. In all of the cases, electronic reviews can never ensure that the digitally stored voter choices were accurately recorded and/or tallied.
Some states may use only one counting method, while many states utilize a mixture of two or all three, and others provide no explicit statutory guidance on the matter. Others explicitly state that the recount initiator (for candidate-initiated or voter-initiated recounts) or an election official may select the counting method.
Please note that because state laws use the term “recount” for all three counting methods, for simplicity’s sake we continue to use the term “recount,” in its common usage where appropriate, as the term to refer to all three counting methods: a state’s “recount” laws include all its laws regarding recounts, retabulations, and electronic reviews. Likewise, we use the more specific counting method vocabulary, e.g. retabulation and electronic review, rather than simply “recount,” when a distinction may be important to understanding the meaning of a given law.
We made similar decisions regarding other terms and vocabulary. We request that you consult our glossary, (see link on upper right side of this page), to understand the way in which these terms may or may not be used precisely as they are used in your state's election law.
There are two ways to access information in the searchable database. The first is to view information state-by-state by simply selecting a state from the right-hand column. Each state’s profile will list the eleven search categories (e.g., “Voting System Used”) and related subcategories (e.g., “Paper Ballot”) that apply to that state.
The second way to view information is to compare states by conducting a database search. Select one subcategory from each of the various categories you would like to search and then click “Apply” to see all the states that contain those subcategories. You can also do a more advanced search that involves multiple subcategories. For any questions contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Information about election contests. Our focus here is on recounts only, not on election contests or appeals processes. There are some states for which the two processes are more intertwined, or in which a recount may only be initiated during an election contest. In such cases the relationship between recounts and election contests are explained in more detail on the state’s profile.
2. Local recount laws. While these are occasionally referenced out of necessity, in order to maintain a manageable scope for the project and to allow for a meaningful level of comparison, we restricted ourselves to state-level recount law only. For those states that address municipal and county recounts in their state statutes, such information is included here. Some states, however, primarily address statewide or federal offices in their state statutes, leaving some recount administration decisions to local authorities. (Such differences are noted on each state’s profile.)
We reviewed the most recent available electronic version of each state’s statutes and administrative code. Where available, we also consulted online materials and guidelines (written both for candidates and/or election officials) regarding not only recounts but also election conduct more generally.
We have tried to be thorough and consistent in citing our sources, both for easy verification and to allow others to use our work to easily pursue further research on this subject. On each state’s profile page, you will find full citations to state statutes, rules, code, and any additional material. The first time a statute is referenced on a page, a full citation and full URL address is provided. If referenced again, only an abbreviated citation and hyperlink are given.
Some states web versions of their statutes do not have the capacity to link to each individual statute or rule. For these, we have provided a general link at the top of the state’s page and citations only, without hyperlinks, throughout the text.
We encourage you to provide us with additional resources that may be useful for each state, or with additional citations or corrections as they are needed.
Beyond each state's laws, there are a number of resources that have been greatly helpful. When we initially began our research, electionline.org’s report, “Recounts: Punch Cards to Paper Trails” helped us gain an initial grasp on existing research into state recount law. As we looked into the voting system and counting method for each state, we also relied greatly on Verified Voting’s “Verifier Map.” Most of all, we benefited enormously from volunteers who helped review our information for both accuracy and clarity. Election integrity leaders, election law attorneys, secretary of state staff, and numerous election officials from most of the states responded to our request to review our data. We sincerely thank them for their comments and recommendations. Their insights have made this a much more accurate and a stronger recount law database.
We would also like to thank the many people who reviewed our summary of recount laws for their states. This includes Secretary of State staff, election officials, attorneys and election integrity activists.