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 in October 2020.

Note: The Colorado's Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) are available here.

Voting System Used

Paper ballot (hand marked paper ballots and ballot marking devices for accessibility.)

Colorado votes by mail on paper ballots.  The Office of the Colorado Secretary of State lists on their 2020 map of voting equipment a couple of counties that still use DREs with VVPATs. 

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method

Mix of hand count and retabulation 

The canvassing board is required to test voting machines before a recount with the test results used to determine whether the ballots are retabulated using the same machines or recounted by hand.  If the test reveals no unexplained discrepancy from a corresponding hand count, then retabulation is used, whereas any unexplained discrepancy results in a hand recount for the ballots that were counted on that machine, resulting in a mix of hand recounting and machine retabulation. Any batches of ballots that were initially counted by hand are also recounted by hand. 8 Code of Colorado Regulations (8 CRR) 1505-1 Rule 10.13.5(a)).

Rule 10.9.2 (8 CCR 1505-1) provides that “a county that has successfully completed a comparison audit under Rule 25.2 and reported no discrepancies in the recount contest need not re-scan ballots during a recount, except [by request of an interested party].” However, “in all cases, the county must re-adjudicate ballot images for voter intent” regarding “every overvote, undervote, blank vote, ambiguous mark, and write-in vote.”

Initiating Mechanisms

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated

While election officials can't initiate recounts in Colorado, “the governing body that referred a ballot question or ballot issue to the electorate” may request a recount, even when the vote margin is not close enough to require the recount.  C.R.S. 1-10.5-106(1).

Close Vote Margin Options

Less than or equal to 0.5%
Initiated automatically

A recount is required when the "difference  between the highest number of votes cast in that election contest and the next highest number of votes cast in that election contest is less than or equal to one-half of one percent of the highest vote cast in that election contest."  C.R.S. 1-10.5-101(1)(b).

The law also clarifies the close vote margin for election contests in which more than one candidate is to be elected. In this case, the margin is calculated by dividing the difference between “the candidate who won the election with the least votes and the candidate who lost the election with the most votes” by the votes cast for “the candidate who won the election with the least votes.” No matter the office and method of calculation, the margin is “less than or equal to 0.5%.” No restrictions are listed regarding the type of election for which the close vote margin applies. C.R.S. 1-10.5-101.  “Political subdivisions” other than the state have the ability to waive the recount requirement for ballot issues and questions they referred to the ballot. C.R.S. 1-10.5-103.

Timing: Recounts for congressional, state, and district offices, state ballot questions, and state ballot issues see C.R.S. 1-10.5-102, Subsections (1) and (2). Recounts for contests and questions under county jurisdiction see C.R.S. 1-10.5-103.  Recounts for nonpartisan elections not coordinated by the county clerk and recorder see C.R.S. 1-10.5-104.

Candidate-Initiated Options

Party official may petition for candidate

The rules for initiating a recount are the same for candidates, political parties and designated representatives of ballot measures. C.R.S. 1-10.5-106 (1).  The timing is discussed in Subsection (2). 

Voter-Initiated Options

N/A

Recounts for issues and questions in Colorado are not requested by voters at large, but only by those who either originally served as designated representatives when the petition for the question or issue was circulated or are “the agent of an issue committee that is required to report contributions” and supported or opposed the question or issue. C.R.S. 1-10.5-106  and C.R.S. 1-40-113.  Such representatives and agents qualify as “interested parties” and may request recounts in accordance with the rules set out for candidate-initiated recounts.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts

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

Costs are not determined before the election but determined before the recount by the respective election official with whom the candidate has filed their recount request. The candidate must pay the full amount before the recount begins. All funds are returned to the initiating party if the election results are reversed in their favor, or if they are sufficiently changed such that a close vote margin recount would have been warranted. C.R.S. 1-10.5-106.

Challengers and Observers

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

Political parties, candidates, and those sponsoring issues and questions are allowed to have designated “watchers” during the initial counting process, but the statutes do not clarify if such watchers are also allowed during recounts.  C.R.S. 1-7-105,  1-7-106, and 1-7-107. The Secretary of State's regulations, however, clarify that watchers may also be present at recounts.  8 CCR 1505-1 Rule 8.10.2(a)(11). Rule 8.3 also clearly states that political party attorneys are not allowed into counting locations unless formally registered as a watcher. Neither the state statutes or rules specifically grant watchers the ability to challenge ballots. However, Rule 8.16 provides that “Unless the county clerk has established another process, if a watcher disputes a decision made by an election judge or alleges a discrepancy, the watcher must alert the designated watcher contact.” Also, those initiating a recount or who are party to one may challenge the entire process in the appropriate district court. C.R.S. 1-10.5-109.  We found no statute requiring that the recount be conducted publicly; however, 8 CCR 1505-1, Rule 8.18 provides that “Media Observers may witness all election activities.” 

Rules for Determining Voter Intent

Statutory guidance provided

Colorado provides some guidance on interpreting the validity of improperly made voter marks in C.R.S. 1-7-309 and C.R.S. 1-7-508 as well as in Rule 18 of 8 CCR 1505-1.

State Has Audit Laws
Yes

See Rule 25, post-election audit and the Colorado Risk Limiting Audit Project.

Revision Notes

This information was updated 10/21/2020 using Colorado Revised Statutes, current at the time of review through all laws passed and signed in the First Regular and First Extraordinary Sessions of the 72nd General Assembly.  In addition, the update references the Code of Colorado Regulations, published on website of the Office of the Colorado Secretary of State.