Tennessee Recount Laws

This information was initially released on October 21, 2010 and updated in October 2012.

We are unable to link to individual statutes, but the index for and links to all statutes cited below can be found at: http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/tncode

Voting System Used: 

Mixed paper ballot and DREs without VVPAT

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method: 

Mix of recount, retabulation and electronic review Counting method chosen by election official Officially, the court or body of jurisdiction which orders a recount decides whether the count shall be recounted by hand or retabulated by automated tabulators. See the Tennessee Code, Title 2, “Elections,” Chapter 17, “Contested elections,” Section 2-17-117, “Circumstances justifying recount – Determining procedure for recount,” Subsection (c). Despite the state's various recount provisions, most counties in Tennessee currently use only direct-recording electronic machines (DREs) without a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT). This means that for most votes cast in Tennesse, only an electronic review can be conducted. However, in 2008, Tennessee passed the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, requiring all 95 counties to use optical scan voting systems with paper ballots. Yet there is currently some controversy in the state over implementation of the Act, as replacement of former paperless DREs has yet to proceed apace to meet the Act's deadline requiring that optical scan systems be in place to be used by the November 2010 general election. In January 2010, the Tennessee Senate voted to delay implementation of the bill. The text of the Act is available as a PDF: http://state.tn.us/sos/acts/105/pub/pc1108.pdf.

Initiating Mechanism: 

Court-ordered Court-Ordered Recounts: Tennessee statute allows “any court, primary board, legislative body, or tribunal” with jurisdiction over election contests to initiate a recount of ballots for both general and primary elections, but under a limited set of circumstances. These include a tie vote; an indication of fraud, or the malfunction of a voting machine, in sufficient amounts to alter the election outcome; or “any other instance” in which such a body “finds that a recount is warranted.” If a recount is ordered, all ballots cast in the election must be recounted. See the Tennessee Code, Section 2-17-117.  Note that an election contest must be initiated by a candidate before it proceeds to the recount stage. However, as discretion to initiate the recount itself lies entirely with the court – there is no mention of a candidate's ability to ask the court for a recount, only of their power to order one - we have classified this as a “court-ordered recount” only.

Timing: A complaint initiating an election contest must be filed within five days after the certification of the election results. See Section 2-17-105, “Time for filing complaint.” Note that this is the timeline for initiating the election contest; it does not restrict when, during election contest proceedings, a court may determine the need for a recount, or by when the recount must begin or be finished. However, contests must be held “not less than fifteen (15) nor more than fifty (50) days from the day the complaint is filed and not less than ten (10) days after the complaint is served on the defendant.” See Section 2-17-106, “Time of trial – Service of process.”

Close Vote Margin: 

N/A While a court may initiate a recount in the instance of a tie vote, please note that the statutory language does not mandate that they do so; the court “may” order a recount. See Section 2-17-117.

Candidate-Initiated Options: 

Candidates may initiate election contest proceedings, through which a court may then order a recount. Note that candidates cannot request the recount directly; that is left up to the discretion of the court as described in Section 2 - 17. For details on election contest filings, see the following: Section 2-17-102, “Contests for offices of general assembly members.” Section 2-17-103, “Contests for office of presidential and vice presidential electors." Section 2-17-104, “Contest of primary election.”

Challengers and Observers: 

No statutory guidance for recount observers No statutory guidance for recount challengers We found no specific statutes governing observers or challengers during the court-ordered recount process, or requiring that recounts be conducted publicly. If you know of relevant laws or rules for this state on this issue, please email info@ceimn.org.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Statutory guidance provided Guidelines on reading voter marks and determining intent can be found in Section 2-7-133, “Ballots which may be counted.”

Audit Laws: 

State has audit laws

The Tennessee Voter Confidence Act provided for mandatory hand count audits for all elections, though as noted above, full implementation of this Act has yet to occur, preventing such audits from taking place.

Also see:  http://www.ceimn.org/state-audit-laws-searchable-database/states/tennessee