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 10/26/2020.

Voting System Used

Paper Ballots (hand marked paper ballots or ballot marking devices)

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

voting system used is here

Counting Method

Mix of hand count and retabulation
Counting method chosen by initiator

The Secretary of State is charged with developing regulations for recounting votes on each type of voting system used throughout the state. See the California Elections Code, Division 15, Chapter, 9, Section 15601. The regulations can be found in California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 2, Division 7, Chapter 8

For voter-initiated recounts, the initiator has the authority to choose whether counting shall be conducted by hand or "by means of the voting system used originally." See Section 15627.

Initiating Mechanisms

Close vote margin
Voter-initiated
Election official-initiated
Court-ordered

Court-Ordered Recounts:
The county board of supervisors or a grand jury, given evidence of “sufficient” misconduct, or “errors or failures,” may request that the district attorney petition the superior trial court for a public recount. The court can also order further recounts without a petition from officials based on its observation of the recount. See Section 15640.

Timing: The district attorney must petition the trial court within 25 days after the election. See Section 15640.

Election Official-Initiated Recounts:
Under certain conditions, elections officials may initiate recounts without petitioning a court. See Section 15610.

Timing: No deadlines are provided in the statutes. 

Close Vote Margin Options

Less than or equal to 0.1%
Vote count difference (not percentage-based)
Varies by election contest
Initiated by request (at the discretion of the governor)

In a primary or general election, the governor may order a state-funded manual recount of all votes cast for a statewide office or state ballot measure if the margin of victory is less than or equal to the "lesser of 1,000 votes or 0.00015 [0.015%] of the number of all votes cast.... "  If the office eligible for the recount is the governor's race, then the secretary of state may order the recount.  See Section 15645.

Voter-Initiated Options

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

Any voter in California may request a recount.  The request may be filed for candidates for any office, for slates of presidential electors, or for or against any measure. The request shall specify on behalf of which candidate, slate of electors, or position on a measure (affirmative or negative) it is filed."   Section 15620 & 15621.

For statewide offices or for statewide ballot measures, the request must specify in which counties the recount is to take place. Section 15621.

The initiator may also indicate the order in which the precincts are to be recounted. See Section 15622. If not all precincts were initially included in the request for a recount, any other voter may file a request to recount any of the remaining precincts, up to 24 hours after the initial recount.  See Section 15623. Statewide offices may also be recounted, but the request is filed with the Secretary of State. See Section 15621.

Timing: The request must be filed within five days of the official canvass. The recount must begin within seven days of the request, and is required to continue each day, excepting holidays, for a minimum of six hours each day, until its completion. See Section 15626, 15620 & 15621.

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts

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

The voter must pay for all associated recount costs determined by the appropriate elections officials. The voter will pay a deposit at the beginning of each day of the recount for that day's estimated costs. All deposits are refunded if the recount declares that the initiator's candidate, or stated position on a ballot measure, is the actual winner in the election. See Section 15624.

Challengers and Observers

Statutes specify that recount must be public
Party/candidate or initiator has statutory authority to appoint observers
Party/candidate or initiator has statutory authority to appoint challengers

California requires that the recount must be held publicly and that notice of the recount be posted at least one day prior to the recount; see Sections 15628 and 15629.  State regulations also allow for any person to observe the recount, “subject to space limitations.” See the CCR Section 20820. The CCR states that a voter requesting the recount has a right to observers. Election officials choosing the recount location must make sure the space allows for the presence of not more than two representatives each for interested parties, qualified political parties, and “any bona fide association of citizens or a media organization.” CCR Section 20816. The defintion of "interested parties” includes the voter who has requested a recount. CCR Section 20811(3).

At a recount, ballots may be challenged for incompleteness, ambiguity or other defects. Section 15631.  The voter initiating a recount may request an examination of all ballots. Section 15630.  See also CCR 20823 for challenge procedures.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent

Statutory guidance provided

See the Uniform Vote Counting Standards

State Has Audit Laws
Yes
Revision Notes

This information was updated 10/26/20 using the California Code of Regulations accessed here, and using the 2019 California Elections Code