District of Columbia Recount Laws

This information was updated September 2013 using the District of Columbia Code (D.C. Code) and the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR).

Voting System Used: 

Mixed paper ballot and DREs with VVPAT

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method: 

Mix of recount and retabulation

Washington D.C. uses a mixture of paper ballots and direct-recording electronic machines (DREs) with a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT).  Paper ballots will be rescanned (DCMR 3-816.7), VVPATs will be hand counted (DCMR 3-816.8.)   However, the D.C. Municipal Regulations permit the Board of Elections and Ethics to conduct a recount of both ballots and VVPATs by hand if the Board believes that either overvotes, undervotes, or write-in votes may affect the overall outcome, there is eveidence of machine miscount or malfunction or when its necessary to "ascertain correct vote totals." See DCMR 3-810, (a), (b), (c).

Initiating Mechanism: 

Close vote margin


Court-Ordered Recounts: Court-ordered and voter-initiated recounts are not entirely separate processes. For a court to order a recount, a voter must first file for a review of the election results with the DC Court of Appeals. More details can be found below under Voter-Initiated Options. See the DC Official Code, Section 1-1001.11,(b).

Timing: Recount requests must be made within seven days after the certification of the election results.

Close Vote Margin: 

Less than or equal to 1%

Recounts are initiated automatically by a close vote margin for initiatives, referendums, recall measures, and “any election for President and Vice President of the United States, Delegate to the House of Representatives, Mayor, Chairman of the Council, member of the Council, President of the Board of Education, or member of the Board of Education” For all, the margin of victory must be “less than one percent of the total votes cast” either for the office or for the initiative. See the Section 1-1001.11, (a)(2) and (a)(3).

Timing: We found no timing requirements for the recount to begin or be finished in the DC Official Code or the DC Municipal Regulations.

Candidate-Initiated Options: 

Candidate determines how many/which precincts to recount

Any candidate may file for a recount with the Board of Elections and Ethics. No restrictions are listed regarding the type of election in which a recount may be requested, or limiting the eligibility of certain offices for a recount. See Section 1-1001.11, (a)(1).

Timing: Recount requests must be made within seven days after the certification of the election results.

Voter-Initiated Options: 

Voters may request recounts for offices
Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions

Any voter who voted in an election may file with the DC Court of Appeals to review the election results, whether for an initiative or for a candidate. While technically the request is for a review, as part of the review process, the Court may rule that a recount is necessary and order that the ballots be recounted. See Section 1-1001.11, (b).

Timing: Requests for reviews must be filed within seven days after the certification of the election results.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

Initiator pays set or per jurisdiction fee
Initiator must pay deposit or bond before recount
Payer of costs depends on outcome of recount

Candidates must pay a $50 deposit for each precinct included in the recount. The entire deposit is refunded if the result of the election is changed as a result of the recount. If the result of the election is not changed, the petitioning candidate is liable for the actual cost of the recount, less the deposit already made. See Section 1-1001.11,(a)(1).

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts: 

Payer of costs depends on outcome of recount

The voter requesting a review is not required to pay a specific deposit or fee for the recount, though they are liable for court costs. However, the Court can “require the losing party to reimburse the prevailing party for reasonable attorneys' fees and other costs associated with the case.” See Section 1-1001.11, (b)(5).

Challengers and Observers: 

Statutes specify that recount must be public
Party/candidate or initiator has statutory authority to appoint observers

Statutes specify that the Board of Election and Ethics shall ensure that each candidate for an office subject to a recount may designate watchers to be present while the recount is conducted, or in the case of an initiative, referendum, or recall measure, ensure that members of the public may be present while the recount is conducted. See Section 1-1001.11(a)(4)(C). Rules also specify that, space permitting, members of the public shall also be given access to the place where the recount will occur. See DCMR 3-816.6 and DCMR 3-706.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

No statutory guidance provided

While we were unable to locate statutory guidance in the DC Election Code, the DC Municipal Regulations apply to recounts. See DCMR 3-803. The voter intent regulations are authorized to be used in recounts in DCMR 3-816.2.