New Mexico Recount Laws

This information was updated in March, 2014.

Voting System Used: 

Paper ballot (optical scanners)

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method: 

Required hand count of a sample of ballots in addition to other counting methods
Mix of recount and retabulation
Counting method chosen by initiator

New Mexico uses only paper ballots that are tabulated by optical scanners. For automatic recounts initiated by a close vote margin, before the recount begins, a random selection of ballots (the number of which varies depending on the respective office) is both recounted by hand and retabulated by machine, to determine the counting method.

According to Section 1-14-23 (C): “For a statewide or federal office, if the results of the hand-tally and the electronic vote tabulating system tabulation differ by one-fourth of one percent or less, the remaining ballots shall be recounted using electronic vote tabulating systems. Otherwise, the remaining ballots shall be recounted by hand.” And, Section 1-14-23 (D): “For offices other than statewide or federal offices, if the results of the hand-tally and the electronic vote tabulating system tabulation differ by the greater of one percent or less, or two votes, the remaining ballots shall be recounted using electronic vote tabulating systems. Otherwise, the remaining ballots shall be recounted by hand.”  See Section 1-14-23. 

In addition, 1-14-23 (E) states: “Nothing in this section prohibits a candidate from requesting a hand recount in accordance with the provisions of Section 1-14-15 NMSA 1978.”

Initiating Mechanism: 

Close vote margin Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated Election official-initiated

New Mexico's statutes contain two distinct sections of law regarding recounts. Statutes for recounts for county, statewide, and federal offices can be found in Chapter 1, “Elections,” Article 14, “Contests and Recounts.” There is a separate set of statutes for recounts in municipalities, contained in Chapter 3, “Municipalities,” Article 8, “Municipal Elections.”  Not all initiating mechanisms apply to all offices; the statutes for municipal elections allow for voter-initiated recounts, which are not allowed at the county or state level, and also have clear provisions for local election officials to initiate recounts.

Election Official-Initiated Recounts: In its statutes pertaining to elections in municipalities, New Mexico allows for election officials who believe there to be any errors to conduct a recheck (as noted above, this is a retabulation, rather than a hand count). See Section 3-8-55 and 3-8-56.

Timing: See Section 3-8-56(B).

Audit-Initiated Recounts: A “voting system check” performed by an auditor is conducted for all federal offices, and for governor, as well as for that statewide office “for which the winning candidate won by the smallest percentage margin of all candidates for statewide office.” See Section-1-14-13.2(A).  The audit process involves a hand recount for a given number of precincts for each office. Based on a comparison of this hand count with the initial vote count, the auditor shall establish an error rate. If the hand count decreases the margin of victory, and if the error rate is more than 90% of that margin, an additional sample of ballots is audited. If, after this second-round audit, the error rate is still more than 90% of the margin of victory, a full recount of all ballots for that office must be conducted. See Section 1-14-13.2(D).

Timing: See Section 1-14-13.2(B).

Close Vote Margin: 

Less than or equal to 0.5%

A close vote margin of “less than one-half of one percent of the total votes cast for that office” initiates a recount, but only for federal and state offices. These are referred to as “automatic recounts,” and the law applies to both primary and general elections. See Section 1-14-24.

Timing: See Section 1-14-16.

Candidate-Initiated Options: 

Candidate determines how many/which precincts to be recounted

For county, state, and federal elections, any candidate for whom the county or state canvassing board serves as the agency responsible for issuing their final certification of nomination or election may file for either a recount or recheck. See Section 1-14-14.  For municipal elections, any candidate may file for a recheck or a recount. See Section 3-8-68.

Timing: For county, state, and federal offices, requests must be made within six days after completion of the canvass, and election officials must begin the recount not more than ten days after a request is made. However, for municipal offices, requests must be made before the official canvass ends.

Voter-Initiated Options: 

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

There are no statutes regarding voter-initiated recounts. However a recheck (that is, a machine retabulation) may be conducted at the municipal level if five percent of citizens voting in the election request a recheck. The statutes do not specify any limitation on what can be rechecked, presumably allowing for the request to be made both for offices and for questions. See Section 3-8-58.

Timing: The request must be made before the official canvass ends.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

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

The initiator pays a per precinct deposit before the recount or recheck, to be determined by the state canvassing board by March 15th of each year. Different deposit requirements may be established for recounts and rechecks. The deposit is refunded if the recount or recheck changes the outcome of the election. See Section 1-14-15.

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts: 

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

As noted above, voters may request only rechecks, and not hand recounts. For rechecks, voters must pay a bond of $10 per machine to be rechecked. This is returned to the voters if the recheck alters the outcome of the election. See Section 3-8-59.

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

The only mention made for observers at recounts is specifically for those that are initiated via an audit. Section 1-14-13.2(F) states that designated county canvass observers may observe the hand recounting initiated by the voting system check described in that same section. Candidates, political parties, and “election-related organizations,” may each appoint one county canvass observer per county, if they file a request ten days before the election begins. The statute also states: "A county chair of a qualified political party may appoint as many observers as the chief election officer for that county determines is functional; provided that the state or county chair may appoint at least three observers and that the number of observers for each major political party is identical." See Section 1-2-31. In addition to observers, Section 1-14-16(C) states that the recount shall be conducted in the presence not only of election officials but of “any other person who may desire to be present .” The New Mexico Administrative Code further states that “members of the public may be present during a recheck or recount.” See Section

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Statutory guidance provided
Secretary of State or Election Board responsible for defining intent

The Secretary of State is required to issue rules for reviewing “the qualification of provisional ballot envelopes, [and] absentee and other paper ballots” for recounts. See Section 1-14-22.  However, general statutory guidance regarding the validity of voter marks on paper ballots is also provided. See Section 1-9-4.2.