Arizona Recount Laws

This information was updated in June 2013.

Voting System Used: 

Mixed paper ballot and DREs with VVPAT

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method: 

Required hand count of a sample of ballots in addition to other counting methods
Mix of recount, retabulation, and electronic review

Votes that were cast on direct-recording electronic machines (DREs) are to be electronically reviewed and also reviewed with the poll list. Most paper ballots are retabulated by machine. However, 5% of precincts for any recount shall be randomly selected for a hand count of both paper ballots and VVPATs. If the results from the hand count differ from the electronic review and/or the retabulation, and that difference falls outside a set margin, an expanded number of votes will be hand counted. If the difference persists, the count will eventually be expanded to the entire jurisdiction for the office being recounted. See the Arizona Revised Statutes, Title 16, “Elections,” Section 16-663, "Recount of votes; method" and Section 16-602, Subsections (C), (D), (E), and (F).

Initiating Mechanism: 

Close vote margin

When the margin of victory is within the amount specified by state statute, the Secretary of State certifies the need for a recount before the appropriate superior court, which orders the recount. Election officials may not simply begin the recount process after the initial canvass, but must go through this court certification process. See Section 16-662, "Certification to superior courts of facts requiring recount":

Close Vote Margin: 

Less than or equal to .1%
Vote count difference (not percentage-based)
Varies by election contest

The close vote margin that will initiate a recount varies by the type of office and the number of votes cast for the office. For most offices and propositions, the margin is "One-tenth of one per cent of the number of votes cast for both such candidates or upon such measures or proposals." For offices filled by state or local electors, the margin must not be above a set number of votes, which varies by the number of votes cast for the office. Not all offices are eligible to be recounted, though recounts may occur for both primary and general elections. See Section 16-661, "Automatic recount; requirements; exemption": The cost for recounts initiated by a close vote margin is not borne entirely by the state, but depends upon the office at hand. See Section 16-666, "Expenses of recount":

Timing: We found no mention of precise times by which the recount must either begin or be finished.

Candidate-Initiated Options: 


While there are no provisions for candidate-initiated recounts in Arizona law, a candidate may initiate election contest proceedings in their capacity as an individual voter. Such proceedings may indirectly lead to a retabulation of ballots. See Voter-Initiated Options, below, for more information.

Voter-Initiated Options: 


While there are no provisions for voter-initiated recounts in Arizona law, voters may initiate an election contest for offices (not including members of the legislature), questions, and amendments to the state constitution, and during an election contest may also file for an “inspection of the ballots.” See Section 16-672, “Contest of state election; grounds; venue”:

Regarding inspections, Section 16-677, “Inspection of ballots before trial; petition; bond; appointment of inspectors,” states that: A. After the statement of contest has been filed and the action is at issue, either party may have the ballots inspected before preparing for trial. B. The party applying for the inspection of ballots shall file with the clerk of the court a verified petition stating that he cannot properly prepare for trial without an inspection of the ballots and shall file with the petition a bond, approved by the clerk, with two sureties, in the principal amount of three hundred dollars, conditioned that he will pay the costs and expenses of the inspection if he fails to maintain the contest. Thereupon the court shall appoint three persons, one selected by each of the parties and one by the court, by whom the inspection shall be made. If either party fails to name a person to act in making the inspection, the court shall make the appointment. C. The inspection of the ballots shall be made in the presence of the legal custodian of the ballots, and the compensation of the inspectors shall be fixed by the court and taxed as costs against the losing party.

This inspection is hence not defined as a recount, but does not exclude its possibility. However, a request for an inspection is not necessarily a request for a recount; hence we have not included Arizona in the list of states clearly offering voter-initiated recounts.

Challengers and Observers: 

Statutes specify that recount must be public
Party/candidate or initiator has statutory authority to appoint observers
No statutory guidance for recount challengers

No mention is made of challengers for recounts. A small number of observers – currently three – are chosen by lot from a pool of people representing either candidates or political committees with a position on a ballot measure or question. These groups must file at least ten days before the election to be able to participate in the lottery for the observer positions. See Section 16-621,"Proceedings at the counting center”:

The general public may view the recount from the public viewing area of the cnetral count facility, (see page 167 of the Election Prcedures Manual.) Arizona offers live, 24-hour video coverage of tabulation centers, available online. Also, while the state uses centralized counting locations, these centralized counting places are required to be within fifty miles of the original polling place to allow easy access to both election officials and interested citizens. See Section 16-608, “Delivery of ballots; electronic voting system”:

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Statutory guidance provided

Arizona law states that a vote may be rejected "if for any reason it is impossible to positively determine the voter's choice," but does not provide further guidelines. See tne Arizona Elections Procedures Manual pages 212 and 214-215 -