Kentucky Recount Laws

Voting System Used

Mixed paper ballot and DREs without VVPAT

For more details, visit Verified Voting.


Counting Method

No statutory guidance provided for counting method

Approximately 10 Kentucky counties use a mixture of voting equipment that includes DREs without a voter verified paper trail. The remaining counties use voting equipment that includes hand fed optical scan machines or ballot marking devices.  No recount can be conducted on DREs without VVPATs, only an electronic review. For those votes that are cast on paper ballots, we found no statutory guidance specifying whether ballots would be recounted by hand or retabulated by machine. 

Initiating Mechanisms


Election official-initiated

Election Official-Initiated Recounts:
If precinct election officers report to the county clerk errors discovered in the process of conducting the polling or tabulation of votes, the clerk must file an action with the Circuit Court requesting a recount. See the Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) 120.017.

Timing: The county clerk is required to file an action in Circuit Court within 15 days of the election. KRS 120.017(2).

Candidate-Initiated Options

Contested election
Specific offices only

For primary elections, any candidate or slate of candidates may request a recount. KRS 120.095. Candidates may also contest a primary election in court, and in their petition to the court they may include a request for a recount. However, in order to contest a primary election, a candidate or slate of candidates must have earned at least 50% “of the votes cast for the successful candidate or slate of candidates for nomination to the office….” KRS 120.055.

For general elections, any candidate or slate of candidates for state, county, district or city office, may request a recount.  Some offices are excluded from this provision including the offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, member of the General Assembly, and those city offices as to which there are other provisions made by law for determining contested elections.  Recounts are handled by the same court that manages election contest proceedings. KRS 120.185 and 120.155.
Candidates may also make a written request for a recanvass. Depending on the voting equipment used on election day, a recanvass may involve an electronic review of DREs or central tabulation systems, a comparison poll tapes from voting machines, or if ballots were hand counted on election day, a manual recounting of those ballots. See the Kentucky Administrative Regulations, Title 31 (31 KAR), Chapter 4, Regulation 071E. See also KRS 117.305.

Timing:  KRS 120.095 and 120.185.

Voter-Initiated Options

Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions

Any voter “who was qualified to and did vote on any public question other than a constitutional amendment or question of local option under KRS 242” may petition for a recount. The petition must state the grounds for requesting a recount.  KRS 120.250. See  KRS 120.280 for information about and recounts for constitutional conventions, constitutional amendments, and statewide public questions. 

Voters may also request recounts for Kentucky’s “local option” elections. KRS 242.120.

Timing: KRS 120.250 and 242.120.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts

Paid entirely by initiator
Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount

Candidates must execute a bond before the recount for all costs associated with the recount and in an amount to be determined by the Circuit Judge. KRS 120.095 and 120.185.

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts

Paid entirely by initiator
Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount

For recounts under KRS 120.250, contestants must provide a bond for the costs associated with the recount.  See also the costs for recounts under KRS 120.280.

Challengers and Observers

Party/candidate or initiator has statutory authority to appoint observers
No statutory guidance for recount challengers

For recounts initiated by voters under KRS 120.250, two commissioners are appointed by the court to assist in the recount; one shall represent the contestant and one the contestee. Petitioners may also have an attorney present during the recount proceedings. KRS 120.260

For recounts initiated by voters under KRS 120.280, the attorneys representing the contestant and the Commonwealth's attorney representing the contestee may be present at all hearings on the recount. The contestant and contestee shall each be entitled to appoint one inspector, who shall be allowed to witness the recount. KRS 120.290.

There are no statutes specifying that candidates may appoint observers or challengers to recounts; however, at a recanvass, “each political party represented on the board may appoint a representative there to be its governing body, and also each candidate to be voted for may be present, either in person or by a representative or both.” KRS 117.305.

We found no requirements that recounts be conducted publicly.  

Rules for Determining Voter Intent

Statutory guidance provided

The Kentucky Administrative Regulations contain definitions of a valid vote. 31 KAR 6:030.

State Has Audit Laws

See the Kentucky audit laws at Verified Voting

Revision Notes

The Voting System Used and Counting Method sections were updated 10/25/2022.

All other sections were updated on 10/12/2020 using the Kentucky Revised Statutes (including enactments through the 2020 Regular Session) and the Kentucky Administrative Regulations (updated 10/2/2020). 

Update in progress.

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