Voting System Used

 This search field describes the various methods and equipment used by voters to cast their votes in each state. This category focuses only on the primary and accessible voting equipment used, and does not include any variations that may exist for absentee or provisional ballots. For most states, absentee ballots are hand-counted paper ballots only. See the individual search terms for further clarifications.

Counting Method

This search field describes the methods by which votes are recounted. This category exists separately from Voting System Used, for while two states may both use paper ballots, one may hand count all ballots while another may feed all ballots into an automatic tabulator. Unless otherwise noted, the counting method applies to votes cast on the primary and accessible voting equipment and not to how absentee and provisional ballots are counted. See the individual search terms for further clarifications. Counting method chosen by election official – This search term, for the Counting Method search field, indicates that state law allows election officials discretion when performing a recount as to the counting method to be used. The election official responsible for choosing the counting method varies by state.

Close Vote Margin Options

This search field captures the different requirements used by states to determine if the difference in votes received by competing candidates or by opposing positions on a ballot measure is small enough to automatically initiate a recount. The search options include both percentages (in which the vote margin between candidates is divided by a given number of votes, such as the total votes cast for an office) as well as vote count differences (in which a set number of votes, rather than a percentage, is given as the requirement). See "Less than or equal to X%" below for more details.

Initiating Mechanism

This search field describes both persons (candidates, voters, election officials, courts) and circumstances (close vote margins, or audit results mandating a recount) that may trigger a recount to occur after the initial counting of votes. See the individual search terms for further clarifications.

Audit Laws Details

This search field shows those states that have in place laws regarding not just recounts but also post-election audits. While only two states (Hawaii and Mississippi) lack recount laws, many more states lack laws regarding post-election audits.

Candidate-Initiated Options

This search field describes a number of notable characteristics that shape the candidate-initiated recount process differently in each state. These include both limitations that a state may set (some states allow candidates to request a recount only if there is a particular close vote margin, or only if they are running for a particular office) and privileges that a state may grant (such as allowing party officials to request a recount if the candidate does not).

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts

These search fields describe the various means by which states obtain funds to pay for a recount initiated by a candidate or voter(s). This search field exists only for candidate- and voter-initiated recounts, as these are the only initiating mechanisms for which states charge the cost to a private individual, rather than paying the cost from local or state public funds. See the individual search terms for further clarifications.

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts

These search fields describe the various means by which states obtain funds to pay for a recount initiated by a candidate or voter(s). This search field exists only for candidate- and voter-initiated recounts, as these are the only initiating mechanisms for which states charge the cost to a private individual, rather than paying the cost from local or state public funds. See the individual search terms for further clarifications.

Challengers and Observers

 This search field describes the different ways in which states provide guidance for the public to participate as observers and challengers in the recount process. See the individual search terms for further clarifications.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent

This search field captures whether state law (including administrative rules and codes in addition to state statutes) provides any guidance and who has the authority to establish definitions of voter intent. While some states provide definitions and guidance for how voter intent is determined in statute, others use the statutes to delegate authority to an office such as the Secretary of State or State Election Board; other states neither delegate authority nor provide guidance (whether general or detailed) as to how voter intent should be determined. See the individual search terms for further clarifications.

Close Vote Margin

Generally, a “close vote margin” is when the margin of votes between two candidates or two answers on a ballot question is quite small, or close. What constitutes “close” varies by state, as does the actual method for calculating this margin; please see the Close Vote Margin section on each state profile for details both on the specific margin set and the method used to calculate the margin. We use the term in several places in the recount database:

  1. The Close Vote Margin search field captures the different requirements used by states to determine if the difference in votes received by competing candidates or answers on a ballot measure is small enough to warrant a recount. The search options include both percentages (in which the vote margin between candidates is divided by a given number of votes, such as the total votes cast for an office) as well as vote count differences (in which a set number of votes, rather than a percentage, is given as the requirement). Please note that the percentage options indicate the highest vote margin that will initiate a recount in a given state. See “Less than or equal to X%” for more details.
  2. Close vote margin as a search term for the Initiating Mechanisms search field is used to describe any state that has laws requiring that a recount take place if the difference in votes received by competing candidates or answers on a measure is small enough that it falls within a pre-established margin. (The actual language used by states to describe this type of recount varies greatly, but they are often referred to as “automatic” or “mandatory” recounts.)

Recounts initiated by a close vote margin differ from those recounts that are described as a candidate - or voter-initiated with a close vote margin required. For the latter, a voter or candidate must take action in order for a recount to begin, though the law limits their ability to request a recount to those times when there is a close vote margin. For the former, election officials are legally bound to begin recount proceedings regardless of the actions of candidates or voters. The term is also used more generally throughout the recount guide any time a small vote margin somehow comes into play for a recount (for instance, a state may require that a different counting method be used if the election results fall within a specified close vote margin). It is important to note that different methods are used from state to state to calculate the vote margin. Please see the Close Vote Margin section of each state profile for details.

Voter-Initiated Options

This search field describes the characteristics that shape the voter-initiated recount process in each state. These include both limitations a state may set (some states allow voters to request a recount only if there is a particular close vote margin) and privileges a state may grant (such as allowing voters to request recounts for offices as well as ballot measures). See the individual search terms for further clarifications.

Initiating Mechanisms

This search field describes both persons (candidates, voters, election officials, courts) and circumstances (close vote margins, or audit results mandating a recount) that may trigger a recount to occur after the initial counting of votes. See the individual search terms for further clarifications.

This information was updated 1/30/2020.

Voting System Used

Paper ballot (optical scanners)

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method

Retabulation only

Alabama uses only paper ballots cast on optical scan voting machines. For recounts, ballots are to be retabulated by machine; however, the law allows for ballots rejected by automatic tabulators to be inspected and recounted by hand. See the Code of Alabama (AL Code) § 17-16-20 (h). See also the Administrative Code which specifies that “any ballot returned by the machine in a post-election recount must be counted by hand….” 820-2-10-.17(6)(c).

Initiating Mechanisms

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated

Close Vote Margin Options

Less than or equal to 0.5%
Initiated automatically

When in a general election a candidate or any statewide ballot measure is defeated by not more than 0.5% of the votes cast for the office or the measure, a recount is automatically held. However, the apparent defeated candidate may file to waive the recount. AL Code § 17-16-20(a) & (d).

“If a recount is conducted pursuant to subsection (a), the appropriate canvassing board or authority shall amend the initial certification of the election to reflect the results of the recount.” AL Code § 17-16-20(e). However, for elections for office, if the recount changes the winner to someone "other than the person initially certified, the outcome shall constitute grounds for an election contest as now prescribed by law.” AL Code § 17-16-20(j).

Note that according to the Office of the Alabama Attorney General (opinion dated June 8, 2010 ), “the automatic recount provisions of 17-16-20 are not applicable in a primary election….”

Timing: AL Code § 17-16-20(a), (b), (e) and (g).

Candidate-Initiated Options

Candidate determines how many/which precincts to recount
Specific offices only
 

Any person with standing to contest a primary or general election may with proper cause petition the canvassing authority for a recount of any or all precinct returns. AL Code § 17-16-21(a) and 11-46-55.1. The offices for which a recount may be requested are listed in Section 17-16-40 and do not include federal offices.

If the results of the recount indicate a change in the outcome of the election, the only way to alter the official results is to initiate an election contest.  AL Code § 17-16-21(d)

Timing: AL Code § 17-16-21(a) and 11-46-55.1.

Voter-Initiated Options

Voters detemine how many/which precincts to recount
Voters may request recounts for offices

Any person, including qualified electors, with standing to contest a primary or general election may with proper cause petition the canvassing authority for a recount. Voters may request recounts for a limited number of offices but not for ballot measures.  The petitioner ”may petition the canvassing authority for a recount of any or all precinct returns.” AL Code § 17-16-21(a), 17-16-4017-16-47. & 11-46-55.1.

If the results of the recount indicate a change in the outcome of the election, the only way to alter the official results is to initiate an election contest.  AL Code § 17-16-21(d)

Timing: AL Code § 17-16-21(a) & 11-46-55.1.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts

Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount
Payer of costs depends on outcome of recount

Recount petitioners must pay a security deposit before the recount begins, the amount of which is based upon an estimate of the actual costs made by the election authority. AL Code § 17-16-21(a).  If the recount changes the result, the petitioner has grounds for an election contest; “If the recount of the resulting contest alters the result of the election, the cost of the recount shall be borne by the county.” AL Code § 17-16-21(d).  Security deposits are also required when filing for election contests. See AL Code § 17-16-46 (requiring a deposit or bond to cover the costs of examining ballots and voting machines) and 17-16-49 (requiring deposit of security for the costs of the contest).

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts

Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount
Payer of costs depends on outcome of recount

Recount petitioners must pay a security deposit before the recount begins, the amount of which is based upon an estimate of the actual costs made by the election authority. AL Code § 17-16-21(a).  If the recount changes the result, the petitioner has grounds for an election contest and if "the resulting contest alters the result of the election, the cost of the recount shall be borne by the county.” AL Code § 17-16-21(d).  Security deposits are also required when filing for election contests. See AL Code § 17-16-46 (requiring a deposit or bond to cover the costs of examining ballots and voting machines) and 17-16-49 (requiring deposit of security for the costs of the contest).

Challengers and Observers

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

AL Code §§ 17-16-20(g) and (h), 17-16-21(a) and (b)  and 11.46.55.1 allow for “representatives of opposing interests . . . to participate in the recount” and to observe and to challenge those ballots counted by hand. The statute allows only for the challenging of hand-counted ballots, and not for those retabulated by machine (See the Counting Method section above.) Alabama statutes do not require that recounts be conducted publicly.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent

Statutory guidance provided

The statutory guidance provided for determining voter intent in Alabama states that "if the elector has marked more names than there are persons to be elected to an office, or if for any reason it is impossible to determine the elector's choice for any office to be filled, the ballot shall not be counted for such office;" however, it also states that no ballot shall be “rejected for any technical error which does not make it impossible to determine the elector's choice.” AL Code § 17-12-13.

The Alabama Administrative Code 820-2-10.17(5) states that “When ballots are to be counted by hand, polling officials shall determine the elector’s choice by considering the ballot as a whole and determining the manner in which the elector marked his or her choices on the ballot. Only those choices marked consistently in this manner shall be counted for each office to be filled. As used herein, “marked consistently” pertains to the manner in which the elector expresses his or her choice and not the pattern of candidates selected as between political parties on the ballot. If the polling officials are unable to determine the manner in which an elector marked his or her choices, the ballot shall be rejected in its entirety.” See also Administrative Code 820-2-10-.17(1) and the "Definition of a Vote" in 820-2-1-.02

When representatives of the respective parties involved in the recount do not agree in their reading of a voter's intent as marked on a ballot, an appeal may be made to the canvassing board, which has authority to determine intent. AL Code §17-16-20(h) and 17-16-21(b).

State Has Audit Laws
No
Revision Notes

This information was updated 1/29/2020 using the unofficial Code of Alabama 1975 (AL Code) available at the website for the Alabama State Legislature. The Rules were viewed at the Aministrative Code website on 1/29/2020.