South Dakota Recount Laws

This information was updated May 25, 2016 using the 2015 South Dakota Codified Laws (SDCL) and the Administrative Rules of South Dakota (ARSD) revised through July 1, 2015.

Voting System Used: 

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

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method: 

Mix of recount and retabulation

The recount board will review ballots for proper marking procedures and will count the ballots by retabulation. Ballots that are not able to be accurately counted by the automatic tabulating equipment will be reviewed for voter intent and if possible be hand counted or duplicated for tabulation. A hand count may be conducted to verify the accuracy of the count by the automatic tabulating equipment. ARSD 5:02:09:05 and Recount Manual p. 33.

“The rules in chapters 5:02:09 and 5:02:16 regarding the counting of ballots also apply to recounts.”  ARSD 5:02:19:04.

Initiating Mechanism: 

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated


Close Vote Margin:

Vote count difference (for municipal candidate recounts only)

Varies by election contest

South Dakota requires an automatic close-vote-margin recount in the case of a tie vote. This provision applies to all offices for all elections, with the exception of school and township elections. SDCL 12-21-16.

Timing: SDCL12-21-16, 12-21-20 and 12-21-25.

Note that candidates and voters are also entitled to taxpayer-funded, close-vote margin recounts; however, they must first file a petition.  See the details on these recounts below.  

Close Vote Margin: 

Vote count difference (for municipal candidate recounts only)
Varies by election contest

South Dakota requires an automatic close-vote-margin recount in the case of a tie vote. This provision applies to all offices for all elections, with the exception of school and township elections. SDCL 12-21-16.


Timing: SDCL12-21-16, 12-21-20 and 12-21-25.

Note that candidates and voters are also entitled to other taxpayer-funded, close-vote margin recounts; however, they must first file a petition these recounts.  See the details on these recounts below.  

Candidate-Initiated Options: 

Close vote margin required
Party official may petition for candidate

South Dakota has several different types of candidate-initiated recounts, and they all require a close-vote margin or a tie vote, as well as a petition. The close-vote margins, deadlines, and other details vary by the type of office being recounted.  For all offices, a recount may be requested for both primary and general elections. 

Note that the provisions of SDCL Chapter 12-21 do not apply to elections for which a runoff election is required. SCDL 12-21-18.

Candidate Recounts in a Statewide Election.   These recounts require a petition from a losing candidate and are for state or district races voted on in more than one county. They do not apply to legislative races.  In races where voters were able to select only one candidate, the vote margin must not exceed one-fourth of one percent of the total votes cast for all candidates.  SDCL12-21-12 and Recount Manual p. 3.  Timing: SDCL 12-21-12, 12-21-20 and 12-21-25.

Recount in Close Presidential Elections.  These recounts apply whenever it appears that one group of candidates for presidential electors has been elected over another group of such candidates by a margin not exceeding one-fourth of one percent of the total of votes cast for both such groups. They require a petition from the chairman of the state central committee of the political party which nominated either of such groups, or any two or more candidates of either such group.  SDCL 12-21-15.  Timing: SDCL 12-21-15, 12-21-20, 12-21-22 and 12-21-25.

Candidate Recounts in a Legislative District.  These recounts require a petition from a losing candidate and are for the offices of State Senator or State Representative.  For races where voters were able to select only one candidate, the vote margin must not exceed two percent of total votes cast for all candidates. SDCL12-21-11 and Recount Manual p. 9.  Timing: SDCL 12-21-11, 12-21-10, 12-21-20 and 12-21-25.

Candidate Recounts in Local Elections.  These recounts are used for a specific race that was voted on in one county or part of a county, excluding legislative races. For races where voters were able to select only one candidate, the vote margin must not exceed two percent of the total votes cast for all candidates. SDCL 12-21-10 and Recount Manual p. 18.  Timing: SDCL 12-21-10, 12-21-20 and 12-21-25.

Municipal Candidate Recounts.  These recounts require a petition from a tied or losing candidate for a municipal race. They require a tied election, a close-vote margin of five votes or less, or a margin not exceeding two percent of the total votes cast for all candidates. SDCL 9-13-27.2, 9-13-27.3, and Recount Manual p. 26. Timing: SDCL 9-13-27.2, 9-13-27.3.


School Board Candidate Recounts.
These recounts require a petition from a tied or losing candidate for a school board race.  They require a close-vote margin not exceeding two percent of the total votes cast for all candidates. SDCL 13-7-19.1, 13-7-19.2 and Recount Manual p. 29. Timing: SDCL 13-7-19.1 and 13-7-19.2.

Voter-Initiated Options: 

Close vote margin required
Voters determine how many/which precincts to recount
Voters may request recounts for offices
Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions

Voter-initiated recounts all require a close-vote margin or a tie vote, as well as a petition. The close-vote margins, deadlines, and other details vary by the type of ballot question being recounted.

Recount on a Statewide Ballot Question. These recounts are available for statewide ballot questions, and require a minimum of one thousand voter signatures representing five counties. The vote margin must not exceed one fourth of one percent of total votes cast for that question.  SDCL 12-21-14, ARSD 5:02:19:07, and the Recount Manual p. 14.  Timing: SDCL 12-21-14, 12-21-20 and 12-21-25.

Precinct Recount.  These recounts must be for specific candidates or ballot questions and must be for a specific precinct. For ballot questions and in races where voters were able to select only one candidate, the vote margin must not exceed two percent of total votes cast for all candidates in that race or for that ballot question. For each precinct requested, three registered voters from that precinct must sign the petition for the recount. SDCL 12-21-8, ARSD 5:02:19:06, and the Recount Manual p. 22.  Timing: SDCL 12-21-8, 12-21-9, 12-21-20 and 12-21-25.

Municipal Ballot Question Recount.  These recounts require a petition from three registered voters of the municipality. The vote margin must not exceed two percent of total votes cast for the municipal ballot question. SDCL 9-13-27.4, ARSD 5:02:19:10 and the Recount Manual p. 28.  Timing: SDCL 9-13-27.4

School Ballot Question Recount.  These recounts require a petition from three registered voters of the school district. The vote margin must not exceed two percent of total votes cast for the school ballot question. SDCL 13-7-19.1, 13-7-19.3, ARSD 5:02:19:10 and the Recount Manual p. 31.  Timing: SDCL 13-7-19.1 and 13-7-19.3.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

Paid entirely by state or county

South Dakota does not specify in law or rule who pays the costs related to the recount. However, we were informed by the Secretary of State's Office that the county governments pay all recount-related expenses.

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts: 

Paid entirely by state or county

South Dakota does not specify in law or rule who pays the costs related to the recount. However, we were informed by the Secretary of State's Office that the county governments pay all recount-related expenses.

Challengers and Observers: 

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

Recounts are conducted publicly. They are governed by the same public observation requirement that applies to ballot counting during canvassing. See ARSD 5:02:16:03 and 5:02:19:04.  Any candidate involved in the recount (or their representative) may observe the recount. For recounts on questions, each side of the question is allowed one person to observe. These observers may “witness the opening of all ballot boxes and the count of all ballots.”  They may also protest the ruling of the ballot board on any ballot.  SDCL 12-21-26 and 12-21-27. 

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

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

The State Board of Elections shall promulgate rules determining voter intent. See SDCL 12-20-7:

“A mark that touches the oval on an optical scan ballot shall be counted as a vote; any mark that does not touch the oval and is not in the oval may not be counted as a vote.”  ARSD 5:02:09:22. See also ARSD 5:02:16:21.

Audit Laws: 

State does not have audit laws