Maryland Recount Laws

This information was updated April 25, 2016 using the Maryland Code-Election Law (MD Code Elec.Law) current through Ch. 9, Acts 2016, and the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) “effective to date.”

The Maryland Code Election Law is available online at: www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/mdcode/

Voting System Used: 

Paper Ballot

For more details, visit Verified Voting.  Maryland recently replaced their paperless DREs with optical scan voting machines for the 2016 presidential primary and general elections.

Counting Method: 

Counting method chosen by initiator

While Maryland's statutes do not provide instructions for conducting recounts by hand or by machine, the Code of Maryland Regulations states that for votes cast on optical scan ballots, the recount initiator must specify the counting method to be used. The methods available include poll tape review, electronic retabulation, manual retabulation and “[a]ny other recount option approved by the State Administrator.”  COMAR 33.12.05.02.  However, even when the ballots will be electronically retabulated, they are required to be inspected by election officials prior to the retabulation.  COMAR 33.12.04.02. 

Optical scan ballots are now used in Maryland for all voting.  However, Maryland regulations also explicitly provide that “[t]he procedure for recounting absentee and provisional ballots shall be the same as for recounting other ballots.” COMAR 33.12.04.03(A)(1).

Initiating Mechanism: 

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated

Close Vote Margin: 

Less than or equal to 0.1%.

Any candidate or voter can request a recount when the margin is 0.1% or less.  See the candidate-initiated and voter-intiated options below.

Candidate-Initiated Options: 

Candidate determines how many/which precincts to recount

Any candidate defeated in any election may petition for a recount, MD Code Elec. Law Section12-101(a), and shall specify in the petition whether the recount shall be conducted “in all of the precincts in which the office was on the ballot” or “only in the precincts designated in the petition.” MD Code Elec. Law Section 12-101(b). The petitioner is not liable for the costs of the recount if the "margin of difference in the number of votes received by an apparent winner and the losing candidate with the highest number of votes for an office is 0.1% or less of the total votes cast for those candidates."  See MD Code Elec. Law 12-107.  If the petitioner does not specify all precincts in which the office was on the ballot, and, “on completion of the recount, the winner of the election is changed,” a counterpetition may be filed by an opposing candidate to request “a recount of the votes for the office in the precincts not specified by the petitioner.” MD Code Elec. Law Sections 12-102 (a) and (b).

Timing: See MD Code Elec. Law Sections12-101(d) and 12-102(d). See also COMAR 33.12.02.09 and 33.12.02.10.

Voter-Initiated Options: 

Voters determine how many/which precincts to recount
Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions

Any registered voter may file a recount request for a question for which the voter was eligible to vote, MD Code Elec. Law Section 12-103(a), and as with recounts for candidates, the petitioner may specify whether all or only some precincts are to be recounted. MD Code Elec..Law Section 12-103(b).  Similarly, if not all precincts are requested to be recounted in the original petition, and, on completion of the partial recount the outcome of the election is changed, a counterpetition may be filed requesting that the remaining precincts also be recounted. MD Code Elec. Law Sections 12-104(a) and (b)The petitioner is not liable for the costs of the recount if the "margin of difference in the number of votes received by an apparent winner and the losing candidate with the highest number of votes for an office is 0.1% or less of the total votes cast for those candidates."  See MD Code Elec. Law 12-107.

Timing: See MD Code Elec. Law Sections 12-103(d) and 12-104(d).  See also COMAR 33.12.02.09 and 33.12.02.10.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount
Payer of costs depends on outcome of recount

Costs are not determined beforehand, but a bond is set by a judge after the recount petition is filed. See MD Code Elec. Law Section 12-105.  The petitioner will not be liable for the costs of the recount if (1) the recount, changes the outcome of the election, (2) the recount results in a gain of “2% or more of the total votes cast for the office” in favor of the requesting candidate, or (3) if the "[m]argin of difference in the number of votes received by an apparent winner and the losing candidate with the highest number of votes for an office is 0.1% or less of the total votes cast for those candidates." MD Code Elec. Law Section 12-107(b)(2).  Under those circumstances, the costs of the recount are paid by the county.  MD Code Elec. Law Section 12-107(c).

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts: 

Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount
Payer of costs depends on outcome of recount

Costs are not determined beforehand, but a bond is set by a judge after the recount petition is filed. See MD Code Elec. Law Section 12-105.  The petitioner will not be liable for the costs of the recount if (1) the recount, changes the outcome of the election, (2) the recount results in a gain of “2% or more of the total votes cast for the office” in favor of the requesting candidate, or (3) if the "[m]argin of difference in the number of votes received by an apparent winner and the losing candidate with the highest number of votes for an office is 0.1% or less of the total votes cast for those candidates." MD Code Elec. Law Section 12-107(b)(2).  Under those circumstances, the costs of the recount are paid by the county.  MD Code Elec. Law Section 12-107(c).

Challengers and Observers: 

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

Election officials are required to “ensure the public’s ability to be present while the recount is conducted.” MD Code Elec. Law Section 12-106(a)(2). While the statutes do not mention observers or challengers, the Code of Maryland Regulations provides rules by which “any person with standing to file a petition for the recount being conducted, even if that person was not the one who filed the actual petition,” may make a challenge “to any part of the recount.” COMAR 33.12.07.01 The Code also specifies that “[e]very recount shall be conducted publicly, open to candidates and their representatives, other parties to the recount, the media, and the general public.” COMAR 33.12.03.02(A).

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Secretary of State or Election Board responsible for defining intent

When ballots are being manually counted, election officials are required to first “evaluate the ballots to ensure that they are valid in accordance with recount procedures established by the State Board” and then, if “a team does not agree or cannot decide on the validity of a ballot or vote, the team shall refer the ballot to the election director, who shall submit it to the board for determination.” COMAR 33.12.05.04(E).  Similar requirements are not explicitly provided for when ballots are being retabulated electronically, COMAR 33.12.05.03, although under those circumstances the ballots are required to be inspected by election officials prior to the retabulation.  COMAR 33.12.04.02(B)(2)(b). For regulations governing determination of voter intent for paper ballots during the canvassing process, see COMAR 33.11.04.07 and 33.11.04.08.

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