North Dakota Recount Laws

This information was updated 11/7/2016 using the North Dakota Century Code (NDCC) current through the 64th (2015) Legislative Assembly. 

Voting System Used: 

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

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

According to the North Dakota Secretary of State Recount Guidelines, recounts may involve hand-counting or machine retabulation.  If the ballots are to be retabulated, a sample hand count must be conducted to verify the accuracy of the voting machines. During a retabulation, ballots containing undervotes for the office recounted and ballots rejected as uncountable by the voting machine will be manually checked for voter intent.  Recount Guidelines, p. 15.

Initiating Mechanism: 

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated

Close Vote Margin: 

Less than or equal to 1%
Less than or equal to .5%
Less than or equal to .25%
Varies by election contest

Recount are automatic for primaries, general & special elections, and ballot measures when: 

“a. Any individual failed to be nominated in a primary election by one percent or less of the highest vote cast for a candidate for the office sought.

 b. Any individual failed to be elected in a general or special election by one-half of one percent or less of the highest vote cast for a candidate for that office.

c. A question, measure, or bond issue submitted to the qualified electors has been decided by a margin not exceeding one-fourth of one percent of the total vote cast for and against the question at any election.”

NDCC § 16.1-16-01(1)

Timing:  NDCC § 16.1-16-01(4).

Candidate-Initiated Options: 

Close vote margin required

For primary elections, candidates may apply for a recount if they are defeated by a margin that is greater than 1% but less than 2% of the vote cast for the candidate receiving the most votes for the office. For general and special elections, the margin of defeat must be more than 0.5% and less than two percent of the highest vote cast for a candidate for that office. NDCC § 16.1-16-01(2).  Voters may not initiate recounts in North Dakota. 

Timing: NDCC § 16.1-16-01(3) & (4).

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

Paid entirely by initiator
Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount

When filing an application for a recount, candidates must pay a bond in an amount previously determined by the county auditor and sufficient to pay the actual cost of the recount. There is no provision for this bond to be returned if the recount alters the outcome of the election. NDCC § 16.1-16-01(3).

Challengers and Observers: 

Party/candidate or initiator has statutory authority to appoint challengers
No statutory guidance for recount observers

“The individuals entitled to participate at the recount are: (1) Each candidate involved in the recount, either personally or by a representative. (2) A qualified elector favoring each side of a question if the recount involves a question or proposition submitted to a vote of the electorate.”  These participants “may challenge the acceptance or exclusion of any ballot.”  NDCC § 16.1-16-01(6).

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Secretary of State or Election Board responsible for defining intent

The Secretary of State may adopt rules for determining voter intent.  NDCC §16.1-06-26(3)

“A voting mark that touches the oval on an optical scan ballot used as a part of an electronic voting system shall be counted as if it were in the oval. Except as provided in North Dakota Century Code section 16.1-13-25, if the voting mark does not touch the oval and is not in the oval, the vote may not be counted.”  North Dakota Administrative Code 72-06-01-05.

See NDCC § 16.1-15-19 for determining voter intent on write-in votes. 

The recount board decides by majority vote how to count the challenged ballots. NDCC § 16.1-16-01(7).

Audit Laws: 

State does not have audit laws

After each election, the Secretary of State shall order a random testing of the voting system programming for one precinct in each county of the state. This test is not conducted on voter cast ballots; it is conducted on a preaudited group of ballots on which are recorded a predetermined number of votes.  NDCC § 16.1-06.15(2) & (5).