Virginia Recount Laws

Voting System Used: 

Paper Ballot (optical scanners)

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method: 

Mix of recount and retabulation

Paper ballots initially counted by hand will again be recounted by hand. Additional ballots to be counted by hand include ballots tabulated by optical scanners that contain “write-in votes, overvotes, and undervotes,” and “any ballots not accepted by the tabulator, and any ballots for which a tabulator could not be programmed to meet the programming requirements.” However, all other ballots tabulated by optical scanners are retabulated by machine. Automatic tabulators must be tested prior to retabulation and for recounts are set to count the votes only for the office or initiative in question. All votes for an office or question may be recounted only one time each election. “The recount proceeding shall be final and not subject to appeal.” See VA Code 24.2-802(D)(1), (2), (3) and (H).

Initiating Mechanism: 

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated

Close Vote Margin: 

Less than or equal to 0.5%

When there is a difference of not more than one-half of one percent between the candidate apparently nominated or elected and the candidate petitioning for the recount, the petitioner is entitled to a taxpayer funded recount. See VA Code 24.2-802(E).  Candidates are required to petition the appropriate circuit court for the recount. See VA Code 24.2-801.

Timing: See VA Code 24.2-801 and 802(B). For a recount of election of presidential electors see VA Code 24.2-801.1.

Candidate-Initiated Options: 

Close vote margin required

Any defeated candidate in any election may petition for a recount if the difference between the apparent winning candidate and the apparent defeated candidate falls within the close vote margin requirement of not more than one percent of the total vote cast for the two candidates. For write-in candidates, the margin is increased to not more than five percent of the total vote cast for any candidate apparently nominated or elected and any write-in candidate apparently defeated. See VA Code 24.2-800(B).    

Timing: See VA Code 24.2-801 and 802(B). For a recount of election of presidential electors see VA Code 24.2-801.1.

Voter-Initiated Options: 

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

A minimum of 50 voters, qualified to vote on the ballot question, is required to petition for a recount. There is a close vote margin requirement: the difference between the votes for and against a ballot question must be not more than fifty votes or not more than one percent of the total votes cast on the question, whichever is greater.  See VA Code 24.2-800(C). 

Timing:  See VA Code 24.2-801. 

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

Recount petitioners must post a $10 per precinct bond, to be refunded if the recount alters the election outcome in their favor.  If the petitioner loses the recount, the bond is forfeit to the extent of the assessed costs, and if the assessed costs exceed the bond, the petitioner is liable for all the assessed costs. When the vote margin, prior to the recount, between the petitioner and the candidate apparently nominated or elected is not more than 0.5%, then the petitioner is not required to post bond and the costs of the recount are assessed against the counties and cities comprising the election district. See VA Code 24.2-802(E), (F) and (G). 

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

Recount petitioners must post a $10 per precinct bond, to be refunded if the recount alters the election outcome in their favor.  If the petitioner loses the recount, the bond is forfeit to the extent of the assessed costs, and if the assessed costs exceed the bond, the petitioner is liable for all the assessed costs. See  VA Code 24.2-802 (E), (F) and (G).

Challengers and Observers: 

Party/candidate or initiator has statutory authority to appoint observers
Party/candidate or initiator has statutory authority to appoint challengers

Any party to the recount is allowed to appoint one observer for each team of recount officials.  See VA Code 24.2-802(C). 

Ballots may be challenged by the recount officials during the recount.  These challenged ballots are reviewed by representatives of the campaigns and election officials, and any unresolved issues are ultimately decided by the Recount Court.  See: Virginia Election Recounts: Step by Step Instructions (pp. 34-35) and VA Code 24.2-802(D).  

The Step by Step Instructions state that “the news media and the general public may also be in the room, but are not allowed to handle any official materials or disturb the proceedings in any way,” and that this public access is subject to the clerk or deputy clerk’s maintenance of the “control of the recount room” (see pp. 11, 33).

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

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

The State Board of Elections is responsible for standards for determining voter intent. See VA Code 24.2-802(A). “For any paper ballot that is to be counted manually and can be counted manually, the guidelines adopted by the State Board of Elections for hand-counting shall be used in determining the voter's intent.” See 1VAC20-80-20(G).   

The detailed guidelines from the State Board of Elections are available in the publication "Ballot Examples: Handcounting Printed Ballots for Virginia Elections or Recounts."  Additional guidelines for determining a valid vote can be found in VA Code 24.2-644.