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 September 27, 2018.

Voting System Used

Mixed paper ballot and DREs with VVPAT

According to the Media Packet issued by the Division of Elections for the 2018 primary election, Alaska uses three methods to count ballots at the precinct level: hand-count (137 precincts), optical scaners (304 precincts), and touch screen with VVPAT.  Nintey-nine percent of all voters in Alaska cast a paper ballot. The touch screen voting units are used by one percent of the voters.  Media Packet, page 24. 

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method

Required hand count of a sample of ballots in addition to other counting methods
Mix of hand count, retabulation and electronic review

For votes cast on direct-recording electronic machines, (DREs), the voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) is the official ballot during a recount and must be counted by hand. If the VVPAT is not “available” or “readable,” an electronic review is conducted. See the Alaska Administrative Code, Title 6 (6 AAC), Chapter 25, Article 1, Rule 25.200.  This rule also states that a recount may be conducted by retabulation as long as it includes a sample hand-count verification of the recount results from one precinct per house district; however, all ballots are reviewed by hand.  "In conducting the recount, the director shall review all ballots...to determine which ballots, or part of ballots, were properly marked and which ballots are to be counted in the recount, and shall check the accuracy of the original count, the precinct certificate, and the review."  2017 Alaska Statutes (AS), Section 15.20.480

Initiating Mechanisms

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated

Close Vote Margin Options

Initiated automatically (for tie votes)
Initiated by request (for candidate and voter requested recounts)

A tie vote is the only vote margin that automatically initiates a recount in Alaska. AS § 15.15.460.  If after a recount and appeal the candidates have been determined to have the same number of votes for office, the winner will be selected by lot. AS § 15.20.530.

See the cost sections for Candidate and Voter-initiated recounts below for a description of the close-vote-margin recounts available by request. 

Timing: In the case of a tie vote, the Director of Elections is required to “immediately proceed with the recount. AS § 15.15.460.

Candidate-Initiated Options

Candidate determines how many/which precincts to recount

Any defeated candidate may request a recount. There are no restrictions on the type of election in which a recount may be requested or limiting the eligibility of certain offices for a recount.  Note the different filing deadlines. The deadline for the offices of governor and lieutenant governor is within three days after the completion of the review. The deadline for other candidates is within five days after the completion of the review.  AS § 15.20.430.  The recount application must state “in substance the basis of the belief that a mistake has been made” and state the particular election precinct or house district for which the recount is to be held as well as the particular office for which the recount is to be held. AS § 15.20.440.

Timing: AS § 15.20.430, 15.20.460, and 15.20.480.

Voter-Initiated Options

Voters determine how many/which precincts to recount
Voters may request recounts for offices
Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions

Voters may request a recount for propositions, ballot questions and offices, but a minimum of ten qualified voters is needed to make the request within five days after the completion of the state review.  There are no restrictions on the type of election in which a recount may be requested or limiting the eligibility of certain offices for a recount. AS § 15.20.430. The recount application must state “in substance the basis of the belief that a mistake has been made” and state the particular election precinct or house district for which the recount is to be held as well as the particular office, proposition, or question for which the recount is to be held.  AS § 15.20.440.

Timing:  AS § 15.20.43015.20.460 and 15.20.480

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
 

The initiator must pay a deposit of $1,000 for each precinct, $2,000 for each house district, or $15,000 for the entire state. The cost is paid entirely by the initiator unless the vote total changes by four percent or more in favor of the initiator, or if the recount changes the outcome of the election, in which case the deposit will be refunded. For both candidates and propositions, a deposit is not required if there is a tie vote, or if the difference between the toal number number of votes cast for each candidate or the total votes cast in favor of or opposed to the issue is less than 20 total votes or less than 0.5% of the total votes cast. AS § 15.20.450.

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

The initiator must pay a deposit of $1,000 for each precinct, $2,000 for each house district, or $15,000 for the entire state. The cost is paid entirely by the initiator, unless the vote total changes by four percent or more in favor of the initiator, or if the recount changes the outcome of the election, in which case the deposit will be refunded.  For both candidates and propositions, a deposit is not required if there is a tie vote, or if the difference between the toal number number of votes cast for each candidate or the total votes cast in favor of or opposed to a ballot issue is less than 20 total votes or less than 0.5% of the total votes cast. AS § 15.20.450.

Challengers and Observers

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

While AS § 15.20.470 mandates notification of candidates, initiators, their representatives, and “other directly interested parties,” it does not mandate notifying the public. We did not find any statute requiring that the recount be conducted publicly.

AS § 15.20.440 allows recount initiators two representatives, one of whom may be the initiator, to “be present and assist during the recount.” Subsection (b) also allows for observers for "candidates, political parties, or organized groups having a direct interest in a recount.” There is no mention made of these observers having the ability to challenge ballots.  However, AS § 15.20.480 suggests that challenges to ballot interpretations do happen. It states that the “rules in AS 15.15.360 governing the counting of ballots shall be followed in the recount when a ballot is challenged on the basis of a question regarding the voter’s intent to vote for the candidate, proposition, or question.” In addition, the Recount Handbook, published by the Alaska Division of Elections, states that the “Director of the Division of Elections is the final authority at the recount. If any candidate or representative disagrees with the determination made by the Director, the ballot is placed in a separate envelope with the name of the challenger, the ballot’s district and/or precinct number, and the name of the candidate for which the ballot was counted written on the outside.”

Finally, according to 6 AAC 25.200, “all recounts will be conducted in the director’s office or at another site in Juneau, selected by the director.” 

Rules for Determining Voter Intent

Statutory guidance provided

Alaska statute provides a detailed set of rules for interpreting voter intent. AS § 15.15.360.  See also the pictoral examples for interpreting voter intent on page 9 in the Recount Manual

State Has Audit Laws
Yes
Revision Notes

Links reviewed for currency August, 2020.

This information was updated September 27, 2018 using Alaska Administrative Code including changes received by the publisher through June 15, 2018, and using the 2017 Alaska Statutes.