Minnesota Recount Laws

This information was updated in June 2014. 

Note: Also see the “2014 Recount Guide" found here.

Voting System Used: 

Paper ballot (optical scanners, hand counted paper ballots, or a mix)

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method: 

Recount only

As of 2008, all recounts in Minnesota are to be conducted manually. The exact changes in the law requiring manual counts can be viewed here. The counting method is described in MS 204C.21.

Initiating Mechanism: 

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated
Audit-initiated

Audit-Initiated Recounts: Minnesota's post-election audit law (referred to in statute as a “postelection review”) contains a three-stage escalation protocol. For the final stage, the law states that if audits in “one or more counties comprising in the aggregate more than ten percent of the total number of persons voting in the election clearly indicate that an error in vote counting has occurred,” a manual recount is to be conducted. See MS 206.89 (5)(b).

Close Vote Margin: 

Varies by election contest
Vote count difference (not percentage-based)
Varies by number of votes cast

Note; while statutory changes made in 2013 now require that all candidates must request a recount when the vote margin is below a certain level, we still consider this a “Close vote margin – initiated” recount because the primary initiating mechanism is the close-vote trigger which entitles candidates to a publicly funded recount. 

For federal, statewide and district judicial races, a losing canidate can request a recount if the margin of victory is below 0.25% of the total number of votes counted or is ten votes or less and the toal number of votes cast is 400 votes or less.  See MS 204C.35(1)(a)(2) and (b)(2).

For state legislative races a losing candidate can request a recount if the margin of victory is below 0.5% of the total number of votes  counted or is ten votes or less and the total number of votes cast for the nomination is 400 votes or less.  See MS 204C.35(1)(a)(1) and MS 204C.35(1)(b)(1).

For county, school district and municipal election contests, a losing candidate can request a recount if the margin of victory is less than 0.25% of the total number of votes counted for that nomination or election. See MS 204C.36(1)(a).  A losing candidate can also request a recount if the difference between the vote cast for that candidate and for a winning candidate is less that 0.5% and the total number of votes cast for all candidates is more than 400 but less than 50,000, see MS 204C36 (1)(b) or if the difference is ten votes or less and the total number of votes cast for the nomination or election of alll candidates is not more than 400.  See MS 204C.36(1)(c).

The close vote margin is calculated by dividing the difference between the defeated candidate and the apparent winning candidate by the total number of votes cast for the office. See MS 204C.36 (1) for recounts in county, school, district, and municipal elections and 204C.35 (1) for federal, state, and judicial races.

Candidate-Initiated Options: 

Candidate determines how many/which precincts to recount

Any candidate who loses by a margin greater than the close vote margins (as discussed above) can pay to have a recount conducted.  See MS 204C.35(2)(a) and 204C.36(2)(a).  Candidates who pay for a discretionary recount may select the first three precincts that are to be recounted and may waive the balance of the recount. See MS 204C.35(2)(c) and 204C.36(2)(b).

Timing:  See MS 204C.35, (1) & (2) and MS 204C.36(1) & (5).

Voter-Initiated Options: 

Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions

When a ballot measure loses by a margin great than the closevote margin as discussed above, any voter eligible to vote on the ballot question, in a county, school district or municipal election can pay to have a recount conducted. To so do, a voter must file for a recount by submitting a petition including signatures from 25 similarly eligible voters. See MS 204C.36(3).

Timing:  See MS 204C.36(3) & (5).

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

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

The costs for which the initiating party in a discretionary recount is responsible are detailed in MS 204C.36, (4).  However, if the recount changes the result or if the difference between the original count and the recount exceeds the standard for acceptable voting system performance, the jurisdiction conducting the recount is responsible for the costs.  See MS 204C.36(c) & (d)

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts: 

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

If the difference falls outside the close vote margin, voters may still request a recount for county, school district or municipal ballot measures, but are liable for all specified expenses. See MS 204C.36(3).  Unlike candidate-initated discretionary recounts, the statute is silent with repect to what happens if the recount of a ballot questions changes the result, or indicates that the voting system did not perform within the acceptable performance standard.

Challengers and Observers: 

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

Both candidates and voters who initiate recounts may appoint representatives who have the ability to challenge ballots during the recount process. See Minnesota Adnimistratrive Rules, Chapter 8235.0800. The Rules also specify that recounts are open to the public. See Chapter 8235.0600.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Statutory guidance provided

Minnesota's statutes provide specific rules for determining the validity of marks made by voters. See MS 204C.22.