Vermont Recount Laws

This information was  updated in August of 2014 using Title 17 of the Vermont Statutes (17 V.S.), current through the 2014 legislative session. 

All references to statutes below can be found in Title 17 of the Vermont Statutes available here

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
Counting method chosen by initiator 

Recounts initiated by candidates for primary and general elections are conducted by retabulation.  After the retabulation, the ballots are reviewed for “markings of voter intent that were not vote tabulator-readable.” See 17 V.S. 2602f.  “The same vote tabulator used in any local, primary, or general elections shall not be used in a recount of that election.”  See 17 V.S. 2493(c).

For local elections, recounts initiated by candidates are conducted by hand, unless the candidate who petitions for a recount requests that the recount be conducted by retabulation. See 17 V.S. 2685(a).  

For local elections, when recounts are initiated by voters the procedures “shall be the same as in the case of recount of the votes cast for a candidate at an election.” See 17 V.S. 2688(b).  However, according to the Vermont Office of the Secretary of State, voters may not request that an election originally counted by hand be recounted by retabulation.

Detailed counting procedures for recounts of non-local elections can be found in 17 V.S. 2602a-2602k; detailed counting procedures for recounts of local elections can be found in 17 V.S. 2685, 2685a and 2686.

According to the Vermont Office of the Secretary of State, the results of a recount are binding.

Initiating Mechanism: 

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

Election Official-Initiated Recounts: 
In the event of a tie vote for a non-local election, the canvassing committee shall file a request for a recount, following the same guidelines as those for candidates. See 17 V.S. 2592(l).

Timing:  See 17 V.S. 2602(b) and 2602a.

Close Vote Margin: 

Varies by election contest

Registered voters (for ballot questions only, and at the municipal level only) and candidates have the right to a close-vote-margin recount under the circumstances listed in the candidate-initiated and voter-initiated options below. The initiation of the recount requires the filing of a petition. See 17 V.S. 2602, 2683(b), 2688(a) and 2592(l)

Candidate-Initiated Options: 

Close vote margin required 

“In an election for statewide office, county office, or state senator, if the difference between the number of votes cast for a winning candidate and the number of votes cast for a losing candidate is less than two percent of the total votes cast for all the candidates for an office, divided by the number of persons to be elected, that losing candidate shall have the right to have the votes for that office recounted. “ See 17 V.S. 2601(a).

“In an election for all other offices, if the difference between the number of votes cast for a winning candidate and the number of votes cast for a losing candidate is less than five percent of the total votes cast for all the candidates for an office, divided by the number of persons to be elected, that losing candidate shall have the right to have the votes for that office recounted.” See 17 V.S. 2601(b).

See also 17 V.S. 2683, which states that  candidates for local office are  eligible to request a recount, if the 5% close vote margin applies. 

Note that in the case of recounts requested by candidates, Vermont uses the following method to calculate their close vote margin. that differs slightly from many states. The difference in votes received by the apparent winning candidate and any other  candidates is not divided by the total vote, the total votes cast for the respective office, or the total votes received by the top two candidates. Rather, the difference is divided by the “total votes cast for all the candidates for an office, divided by the number of persons to be elected.” See 17 V.S. 2601 and 2683(b)

Timing: For local elections, see 17 V.S. 2684 and 2683(a).  For all other elections, see 17 V.S. 2602(b).

Voter-Initiated Options: 

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

Any registered voter, or, in the case of a union school district, at least one registered voter from each member of the union district, may request a recount for ballot questions, but at the municipal  level only. There is a requirement for a close vote margin of less than 5% of the total votes cast on the question. See  17 V.S. 2688.  

Timing:  See 17 V.S. 2688(b).

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

Paid entirely by state or county

All recount costs are “paid by the state through the court administrator's office.” There is no charge to recount initiators. See 17 V.S. 2602i.

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts: 

Paid entirely by state or county

All recount costs are “paid by the state through the court administrator's office.” There is no charge to recount initiators. See 17 V.S. 2602i.

Challengers and Observers: 

Statutes specify that recount must be public
No statutory guidance for recount observers
No statutory guidance for recount challengers

Vermont law clearly states that “persons who are not committee members shall be permitted to view a recount in progress.” See 17 V.S. 2602j(b). A Vermont election official confirmed that this allows the public to be present at state, county and local recounts. While there are no provisions for recount initiators to appoint observers or challengers, each political committee (in the case of general elections) and each candidate (for primary elections, and for independent candidates generally) are able to nominate representatives to serve on the committee that assists in the conduct of the recount. The court is required to appoint equal numbers of representatives from each party and candidate to the committee. See 17 V.S. 2602a.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

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

Basic statutory guidelines for voter intent, as well as instructions prompting the Secretary of State to develop rules for determining intent, can be found in 17 V.S. 2602f(b) - (e) and 2587

Guidelines provided by the Secretary of State can be found in the 2014 Elections Procedures Manual See especially Appendix M, “Rule on What Constitutes a Vote”: , as well as Appendix N, “Illustrations of Ballot Markings of Voter Intent.”

Audit Laws: 

State has audit laws 

The Secretary of State is required to conduct post-election audits.
See: http://www.ceimn.org/state-audit-laws-searchable-database/states/vermont