Illinois Recount Laws

This information was initially released in May 2013.

Note: The information on candidate- and voter-initiated recounts below for Illinois refers to its “discovery recounts.” Discovery recounts are limited in scope and will not change the results of an election, but they may be used as a basis for an election contest.

Voting System Used: 

Mixed paper ballot and DREs with VVPAT

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method: 

No statutory guidance provided for counting method

For discovery recounts, the Illinois Election Code states that the “ballots, voting machines, or ballot cards – as the case may be – shall be examined, that any automatic tabulating equipment shall be tested, and that ballots, recorded votes, or ballot cards – as the case may be – shall be counted.” The language here is unclear as to whether ballot cards are to be retabulated only on the automatic tabulating equipment or if they are to be recounted by hand. See 10 ILCS 5/22-9.1. Similarly, no counting method is recommended or authorized for recounts ordered through the court as part of an election contest. The Election Code states that the State Supreme Court may order a “recount or partial recount of the ballots” and that they shall appoint a Circuit Court judge to “supervise the examination of the records or equipment” and to “take evidence in the same manner and upon like notice as in other civil cases,” but no further details on the conduct of the recount are provided. See 10 ILCS 5/23-1.8a.

Initiating Mechanism: 

Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated
Court-ordered

Court-Ordered Recounts: Illinois has a two-tiered system for hearing election contests that may lead to a court-ordered recount: one tier for state-wide election contests, and a second for election contests in smaller jurisdictions. For both, we consider them “Court-Ordered recount,” for while a candidate or group of five voter initiates the contest through a petition to the court, the court holds a hearing to determine the necessity of a recount and it is ultimately the court's decision. See 10 ILCS 5/23‑1.7a.

For court-ordered recounts in state-wide races the court can also “issue procedural orders or interim rulings regarding the recount or hearing, either upon motion of a party or upon its own motion.” See 10 ILCS 5/23-1.8a.  For other court ordered recounts, the powers of the court are set out in 10 ILCS 5/23-23.

Timing: See 10 ILCS 5/23‑1.2a.

Candidate-Initiated Options: 

Close vote margin required
Candidate determines how many/which precincts to recount
Contested election

Candidates “nominated, elected, or declared eligible for a runoff election” for any office may petition for a recount. However, a close vote margin is required: candidates must have received “at least 95% of the number of votes cast for any successful candidate for the same office” to be eligible for a recount. See 10 ICSL 5/22‑9.1. While Illinois uses the term “recount” to describe this process, the process does not carry the same weight as in many other states. All candidate-initiated recounts are considered “discovery recounts,” and the results are explicitly not binding on the outcome of the election. Illinois' statutes state: The results of the examination and count shall not be certified, used to amend or change the abstracts of the votes previously completed, used to deny the successful candidate for the same office his certificate of nomination or election, nor used to change the previously declared result of the vote on a question of public policy.

Neither candidates nor voters may petition to recount precincts “exceeding 25% of the total number of precincts within the jurisdiction of the election authority.”  See 10 ILCS 5/22-9.1.

As noted under “Court-Ordered Recounts,” candidates may also seek to initiate a recount through the election contest process, in which the judge overseeing the contest may hold a hearing to determine if a recount is warranted. 

For contests, any candidate on the ballot and any write-in candidate in any election may contest the election. Candidates may also specifically request an “examination of records and equipment” as part of the contest. Unlike “discovery recounts,” the ruling resulting from an election contest is binding upon the election results. See 10 ILCS 5/23‑1.6a and 10 ILCS 5/23‑1.2a. For state-wide election contests, see also 10 ILCS 5/23‑1.6a, and 10 ILCS 5/23‑1.2a.  For other election contests, see 10 ILCS 5/23-23 and 5/23-26.

Timing: See 10 ILCS 5/23‑1.2a and 5/23‑20.

Voter-Initiated Options: 

Close vote margin required
Voters determine how many/which precincts to recount
Voters may request recounts for offices
Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions

A group of five registered voters eligible to vote on a question of public policy may petition for a discovery recount on a question of public policy. As with candidate-initiated recounts, the process is not binding and is limited in scope. (See “Candidate-Initiated Options” above for more details.) Similarly, there is a close vote margin requirement of 5% or less of the total number of votes cast on the question. See 10 ILCS 5/22‑9.1b. Voters may also initiate election contests for certain offices and for constitutional amendments. A recount in this process is not guaranteed, but the court will hold a hearing to determine the necessity of a recount. See 10 ILCS 5/23‑19 and 5/23-24.

Timing: 10 ILCS 5/22‑9.1 and 10 ILCS 5/23-20.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

Initiator pays set or per jurisdiction fee
Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount

Initiators pay a set $10 per precinct fee for discovery recounts. See 10 ILCS 5/22‑9.1. For state-wide election contests, petitions for an examination of records and equipment (to be filed after the initial contest proceedings are initiated) must be accompanied by a bond for $50 per precinct to be examined, or $75,000, whichever is less. See 10 ILCS 5/23‑1.6a. The original petition to initiate the election contest in a state-wide race must also be accompanied by a filing fee of $10,000. See 10 ILCS 5/23‑1.2a. There are no statutory provision establishing a separate and distinct filing fee for election contests.

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts: 

Initiator pays set or per jurisdiction fee
Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount

Initiators pay a set $10 per precinct fee for discovery recounts. See 10 ILCS 5/22‑9.1. The same costs apply whether a peition is filed by voters or a candidate.

Challengers and Observers: 

No statutory guidance for recount observers
No statutory guidance for recount challengers

Candidates or their representatives are allowed to attend the recount. For recounts on ballot questions, “acknowledged proponents and acknowledged opponents” are allowed to attend. See 10 ILCS 5/22-9.1. We found no further details on observers or challengers for the recount process provided in the election code, and no statute requiring that the recount be conducted publicly.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Statutory guidance provided

10 ILCS 5/23-50 of the Election Code serves as a reference to all other statutes in the code that pertain to definition of valid votes and voter intent for recounts.