Montana Recount Laws

This information was updated in September 2014.

Voting System Used: 

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

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method: 

Recount only

Ballots are to be recounted by hand.  See Montana Anotated Code (MCA) 13-16-412 and MCA 13.15.206(2).

Initiating Mechanism: 

Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated
Election official-initiated
Court-ordered

Close Vote Margin

Election Official-Initiated Recounts: A canvassing board may petition for a recount if they believe there to be errors affecting the accuracy of the vote totals. See MCA 13-16-201(f) and MCA 13-15-403.

Timing: MCA 13-16-204.

Court-Ordered Recounts: Court-ordered recounts must be initiated by either a candidate or voter before the court may determine the need for a recount. The final decision remains with the court, who determines whether the concerns stated by the initiator are valid before ordering the recount. Any “unsuccessful candidate for any public office at an election” may request a recount with the court for “any or all of the precincts” in which they were on the ballot. Similarly, any voter who was eligible to vote on a ballot issue may petition for a recount. See MCA 13-16-301.

Timing: See MCA 13-16-301.

Close Vote Margin

A tie vote will trigger a recount.  See MCA 13-16-203.

Candidate-Initiated Options: 

Close vote margin required

Candidates are entitled to a recount if there is a close vote margin for their contest, which varies depending on the office sought. For candidates seeking a precinct, county, municipal, or district office voted for only in one county, the vote margin between the recount initiator and the apparent winning candidate must be .25% or less of all votes cast, or 10 votes or less, whichever is greater. See MCA 13-16-201(1)(a).

For candidates seeking congressional or state office, a district office voted on in more than one county, or a legislative or district court judicial office, the vote margin must be .25% or less of the votes cast for all candidates. See MCA 13-16-201(1)(b). Regarding federal offices, while MCA 13-16-201 mentions only congressional offices, a separate statute allows for recounts for any candidate for public office, if there is a close vote margin of greater than .25% but less than .5% of the total votes cast for all candidates for the same office, and if the candidate pays a bond for the recount. See MCA 13-16-211.

Timing: See MCA 13-16-301.

Voter-Initiated Options: 

Close vote margin required
Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions

Voters may request recounts for questions at the municipal, county, district, or state level. For all, there is a close vote margin of .25% or less. The request must include signatures from multiple voters, the number of which varies depending on the jurisdictional level. For questions voted on in municipalities, counties, or districts within a single county, the request must include at least 10 signatures. For questions voted on in multicounty districts, 25 signatures are required. For questions voted on at the state level, 100 signatures are required. See MCA 13-16-201(1)(c)(d) and (e).

Timing: See MCA 13-16-301.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

Paid entirely by state or county
Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount

Candidates are not assessed the recount costs if there is a close vote margin of not more than .25% of the total votes cast for all candidates for that office. See MCA 13-16-205.  For contests in which there is a vote margin of more than .25% (but not exceeding .5%), candidates must pay a bond covering the entire cost of the recount. There is no mention made of this bond being refunded if the outcome of the election is changed. See MCA 13-16-211.

Candidates are responsible for the entirety of costs for court-ordered recounts, and must pay a bond before the recount begins. However, if the recount determines the initiator to be the winner of the election, the bond is refunded. See MCA 13-16-307.

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts: 

Paid entirely by state or county
Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount

Voters requesting a recount on any ballot question for which the close vote margin is .25% or less are not assessed any of the recount costs. See Section 13-16-205.

Initiators are responsible for the entirety of costs for court-ordered recounts, and must pay a bond before the recount begins. However, if the recount changes the outcome of the election, the bond is refunded. See Section 13-16-307.

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

Montana statute specifies both that recounts must be public and that news media may be present. Recount initiators may be present or appoint a representative to observe the process in their stead. For ballot issues, one voter representing each side of the question may observe. See MCA 13-16-411.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Secretary of State or Election Board responsible for defining intent

The Secretary of State is charged with developing rules on voter intent. Using these rules, a majority of the members of a counting or recounting board must agree that the voter intent is clear for the vote to be considered valid. See MCA 13-15-206. The Secretary of State's rule on the matter can be found here.