North Carolina Recount Laws

This information was updated in May 2018 using a version of the North Carolina General Statutes that reflected changes made by the 2017 legislative session.  References to the statutes are preceded by “GS” and references to North Carolina Administrative Code are preceded by “08 NCAC,” in each case followed by the applicable section numbers.

Voting System Used: 

Mixed paper ballot and DREs with VVPAT

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method : 

Mix of hand count and retabulation.

 Recount procedure and instructions regarding counting methods can be found in the North Carolina Administrative Code, Title 8, “Elections,” Chapter 9.

All ballots originally counted by optical scan equipment are again counted by machine. Any ballots rejected by the machine are then counted by hand. If the apparent winner after the initial balloting is the apparent loser after the first machine recount, that candidate shall be entitled to demand a second recount by hand. In addition, whenever a discrepancy between initial balloting and the machine recount cannot be explained, the losing candidate is entitled to demand a hand recount. See 08 NCAC 09.0107.  

For procedures for recounting votes cast on DREs see 08 NCAC 09.0108(c).   

Initiating Mechanisms: 

Candidate-initiated
Election official-initiated

Election Official-Initiated Recounts:

North Carolina's General Statutes state that election boards both at the state and county level “may order a recount when necessary to complete the canvass in an election.” These are referred to as “discretionary recounts.” However, they may not do so if a candidate has already petitioned for a recount and had their petition denied. See GS 163A-1174(a)

Timing: There are no timing requirements stipulated in the statutes for recounts initiated by election officials.

Close Vote Margin Options: 

Less than or equal to 1%
Less than or equal to 0.5%
Varies by election contest

A close-vote-margin recount in North Carolina requires a written request from candidates.  See the candidate-initiated options below.

Candidate-Initiated Options : 

Close vote margin required

Candidates “have the right to demand” a recount within a certain close vote margin and they must make that demand in writing in order to iinitate the recount.. Different close vote margin requirements apply for county and statewide offices. For offices completely within a county board's jurisdiction, or for non-statewide contests within the state board's jurisdiction, the difference between the apparent winning candidate and the next candidate must be 1% or less of the total votes cast for that office. For statewide contests, the difference must be 0.5% of the total votes cast, or less than 10,000 votes, whichever is less. No restrictions are listed regarding the type of election (primary or general) in which a recount may be requested.  See GS 163A-1174(b)&(c).

"If the initial recount was not hand-to-eye and it reversed the results, the candidate who had initially been the winner shall have the same right to ask for a hand-to-eye recount in a sample of precincts."  See GS 163A-1175(a).

Timing: For recounts under the jurisdiction of a county board, requests must be filed by 5 p.m. on the first business day after the canvass. For recounts under the jurisdiction of the state board, requests must be filed by 12 p.m. the second business day after the canvass.  See GS 163A-1174(a)&(b).

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

No statutory guidance provided

Neither the General Statutes nor the Administrative Code describe costs for the recount or establish which party is responsible for covering these costs. However, we have been informed by staff from the State Board of Elections in North Carolina that the general practice is for the election board of the county conducting a recount to pay the cost of the recount. There is no cost to candidates for recounts ordered by the State Board of Elections under the terms of GS 163A-1175 which requires a recount when the “results of the hand-to-eye recount differ from the previous results within those [sample] precincts to the extent that extrapolating the amount of the change to the entire jurisdiction…would result in the reversing of the results.”

Challengers and Observers : 

No statutory guidance for recount observers
No statutory guidance for recount challengers

GS 163A-1174, (d)(3) charges the State Board of Elections with developing rules for recounts regarding “the goals of multipartisan participation” and “opportunity for public observation.” Despite this, the rules pertaining to recounts in the North Carolina Administrative Code do not contain any mention of observers, challengers, or requirements that the recount be conducted publicly. However, we have been informed by staff from the State Board of Elections that in North Carolina in practice recounts have generally had “free access for all interested parties to observing a recount, ss long as they do not interfere with the recount operation.”

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

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

GS 163A-1174, (d)(2) charges the State Board of Elections with developing rules for determining voter intent. Those rules are available in Rule 09.0106, “General Guidelines,” Subsections (c) and (d). See also the State Board of Elections guidelines contained in “What is a Vote.

State Has Audit Laws: 
Yes