CEIMN State Recount Laws Searchable Database

Welcome to the Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota (CEIMN) award winning, State Recount Laws Searchable Database.  The database premiered on October 21, 2010 and we update it on a regular basis. 

We have created this free resource to describe and catalog state recount laws in a manner that is useful and understandable to voters, candidates, election integrity advocates, election officials, legislators, and the media. We have developed consistent and clear definitions to facilitate a comparison of state recount laws (see the link to our database glossary below). We encourage you to review the "About the recount laws 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.

If you have any questions or comments please contact info@ceimn.org

If you find the database useful, please consider a donation to support its maintenance. 

Start searching the database»

Database glossary »

 


About the Recount Laws Database


Voting systems.

We 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 this because we agree with the majority of security experts who see a voter-verified paper record as crucial for voting system security, and we want to highlight a state’s conformance with this basic standard. Of the two basic systems allowing for such independent records, we believe that an accessible, paper-based system of optically scanned ballots offers advantages over direct-recording electronic systems (DREs) that produce a voter-verified paper record. These advantages include reliability, auditability, recountability, and ease of use for voters and election officials.
 

An important note about terminology: recounts, retabulations, and electronic reviews.

We began our research for the database by reviewing previous surveys of recount laws and soon found that the terminology used for recounts was limited, confusing, and inconsistently applied from state to state.

This is especially true for the term “recount.” While nearly all states use the term, it can refer to very different processes. In one state, to conduct a recount election officials may individually examine each ballot and attempt to verify voter intent; in another, election officials conduct a recount by simply re-examining or reprinting the summary totals from the voting machines. Furthermore, in states using identical voting systems, when ballots are recounted, they may be recounted in a number of different ways: by hand, retabulation by machine, or some combination of the two. 

When referencing the entirety of the law, we use the term “recount” to describe all procedures and statutes relating to recounts. In this usage, a state’s “recount laws” would include all its laws regarding recounts, retabulations, and electronic reviews.  However, in our discussion of counting methods for each state, we have tried to create meaningful distinctions to help capture the diversity of recount procedures.  We use the more specific counting method vocabulary of “retabulation” and “electronic review,” in addition to “recount,” and we apply the following definitions:

  • Recount:  Voter-marked paper ballots and voter-verifiable paper records are manually recounted by hand.
  • Retabulation:  This term refers to feeding paper ballots into a voting machine to be automatically recounted. 
  • Electronic review:  We use the term “electronic review” to describe the procedures used to check the results from paperless DREs. What constitutes an “electronic review” varies.  Some states simply examine the printouts from the DREs or run the same electronic tabulation protocols used on election day. Some states do not prescribe in statute how to “recount” votes cast on paperless DREs, or their statutes are unclear. In all cases, since there is no voter-verified paper record, electronic reviews can never ensure that the digitally stored voter choices were accurately recorded and/or tallied.

Please consult the database glossary for additional definitions.


Using the CEIMN State Recount Laws Searchable Database.

There are two ways to access information in the searchable database. The first is to view information state-by-state by selecting a state from the listing in the right-hand column of the search page. Each profile will list the data from eleven search categories (e.g., “Voting System Used”) and related subcategories (e.g., “Paper Ballot”).

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 get a list of all of the states that contain those subcategories.  You can also do a more advanced search that involves multiple subcategories by using the control key to multi-select your subcategories. 
 

What is included in the CEIMN State Recount Laws Searchable Database.

The database includes information on state recount laws from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In addition to the data for the search field categories (Voting System Used, Initiating Mechanisms, etc.), each state profile also includes references to the timing requirements for recounts, restrictions on the offices or types of election which may be affected by a recount, and additional recount information unique to that state. 
 

What is not included in the CEIMN State Recount Laws Searchable Database.

1) Information about contested elections. 

Our focus is on recounts, not on the legal procedures of a contested election. There are some states for which the two processes are connected or in which a recount may only be initiated during an election contest. In such cases, the relationship between recounts and election contests may be explained in more detail on the state’s profile.

2) Local recount laws

Some states address only state or federal elections in their recount statutes, leaving municipal recounts to be administered by local authorities.  In order to maintain a manageable scope for the database and allow for a meaningful level of comparison, we restricted the content to only state-level recount law. However, for those states that address municipal and county recounts in their state statutes, such information is included in the database. 
 

Our sources.

We review the most recent available electronic version of the state statutes and administrative code. When available, we also consult online materials and guidelines (written both for candidates and/or election officials) regarding recounts as well as material related to general election conduct. In some cases, we submit questions to experts and election officials for clarification of laws and procedures.  We try 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 profile page, you will find citations to state statutes, rules, and any additional material referenced.

Whenever possible, we provide hyperlinks to the source documents. For some states, we are not able to link directly to the statutes or rules. When a direct link to the statutes is not possible, we provide a reference to a general source and list the citations only--without hyperlinks--throughout the text.We encourage database users to provide us with notifications of updates to state statutes and rules, additional useful resources, or database corrections.
 

Acknowledgements. 

We would like to thank the many people who have contributed to the creation and continued support of this database.  We have benefited enormously from the assistance of election integrity advocates, attorneys, secretary of state staff, and numerous election officials nationwide.  These individuals have generously responded to our requests for information and have volunteered time and resources to the maintenance and accuracy of the database.
 
We would particularly like to thank election law expert Michelle Mulder who frequently assisted with updates to the database and answered our numerous questions with thoughtful comments, thorough analysis, and wise advice. 
 

Disclaimer.

Although we strive for accuracy and attempt to keep the pages up-to-date, users should recognize that state laws are constantly changing; therefore, when using the database, please refer to the statement indicating the date of the last update for the state profile.