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 October 4, 2018. 

Voting System Used

Paper ballot

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method

Mix of hand count and retabulation

Paper ballots are rescanned for the recount. Any ballots that are not machine readable will be tabulated manually.  District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR), Title 3, Section 3-816.7.   However, the Board of Elections and Ethics may order a recount of  ballots by hand when there is evidence of machine miscount or malfunction, when it is necessary to "ascertain correct vote totals,” or when a recount petition is filed and “it appears that a disproportionate number of potential undervotes or overvotes have occurred in a particular precinct, or to determine whether write-in votes have been cast that affect vote totals for candidates whose names are pre-printed on the ballot.” DCMR 3-810.1.

Initiating Mechanisms

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated
Election official-initiated
Audit-initiated

Court-ordered
 

Court-Ordered Recounts:
Court-ordered and voter-initiated recounts are not entirely separate processes. For a court to order a recount, a voter must first file for a review of the election results with the DC Court of Appeals. More details can be found below under Voter-Initiated Options.  District of Colombia Code (DC Code), Section 1-1001.11(b).

Timing: Recount requests must be made within seven days after the certification of the election results. DC Code § 1-1001.11(b)(1)

Audit initiated:
Under certain circumstances, a post-election audit can escalate to a full recount of all precincts and centrally tabulated ballots. DC Code § 1-1001.09a(h).

Timing: Prior to the certification of the official election results, the Board shall publish and make available for inspection the results of the manual audit. DC Code § 1-1001.09a(j).

Election official-initiated:
The Board of Elections and Ethics may order a recount of  ballots by hand when there is evidence of machine miscount or malfunction, when it is necessary to "ascertain correct vote totals,” or when a recount petition is filed and “it appears that a disproportionate number of potential undervotes or overvotes have occurred in a particular precinct, or to determine whether write-in votes have been cast that affect vote totals for candidates whose names are pre-printed on the ballot.” DCMR 3-810.1.

Timing:  The Board shall direct that the tabulation be conducted at a time that is practicable. DMCR 3-810.2.

Close Vote Margin Options

Less than or equal to 1%
Initiated automatically

Recounts are initiated automatically by a close vote margin for initiatives, referendums, recall measures, and “any election for President and Vice President of the United States, Delegate to the House of Representatives, Chairman of the Council, member of the Council, Mayor, Attorney General, or member of the State Board of Education.” The margin of victory must be “less than one percent of the total votes cast” for the office, initiative, referendum, or recall.  DC Code § 1-1001.11(a)(2) and (a)(3).

Timing: We found no timing requirements for the recount to begin or be finished in the DC  Code or the DC Municipal Regulations. However, candidates for which the election is being recounted must be informed by the Board within two days following the decision to have the recount and public notice “shall be posted on the Board’s website at least 24 hours” before the recount begins.  DCMR 816.4.

Candidate-Initiated Options

Candidate determines how many/which precincts to recount

Any candidate may file for a recount with the Board of Elections and Ethics. No restrictions are listed regarding the type of election in which a recount may be requested or limiting the eligibility of certain offices for a recount. DC Code § 1-1001.11(a)(1).

Timing: Recount requests must be made within seven days after the certification of the election results. DC Code § 1-1001.11(a)(1).  However, candidates for which the election is being recounted must be informed by the board within two days following the decision to have the recount while public notice of the recount “shall be posted on the Board’s website at least 24 hours” before the recount begins.  DCMR 816.4.

Voter-Initiated Options

Voters may request recounts for offices
Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions

Any person  who voted in an election may file with the DC Court of Appeals to review the election results for an office, initiative, referendum, or recall election.   As part of the review process, the Court may rule that a recount is necessary and order that the ballots be recounted. DC Code § 1-1001.11(b).

Timing: Requests for reviews must be filed within seven days after the certification of the election results. However, candidates for which the election is being recounted must be informed by the board within two days following the decision to have the recount while public notice of the recount “shall be posted on the Board’s website at least 24 hours” before the recount begins. There does not appear to be a provision for organizations connected to initiatives to be informed of the timing of the recount. DCMR 816.4.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts

Initiator pays set or per jurisdiction fee
Initiator must pay deposit or bond before recount
Payer of costs depends on outcome of recount

Candidates must pay a $50 deposit for each precinct included in the recount. The entire deposit is refunded if the result of the election is changed as a result of the recount. If the result of the election is not changed, the petitioning candidate is liable for the actual cost of the recount.  DC Code § 1-1001.11(a)(1).

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts

Payer of costs depends on outcome of recount

The voter requesting a review is not required to pay a specific deposit or fee for the recount, though they are liable for court costs. In addition, the Court can “require the losing party to reimburse the prevailing party for reasonable attorneys' fees and other costs associated with the case, but shall not exercise this authority if it finds that the reimbursement would impose an undue financial hardship on the losing party.”  DC Code § 1-1001.11(b)(5).

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

Statutes specify that the Board of Election and Ethics shall ensure that each candidate for an office subject to a recount may designate watchers to be present while the recount is conducted, or in the case of an initiative, referendum, or recall measure, ensure that members of the public may be present while the recount is conducted.  DC Code § 1-1001.11(a)(4)(C). In addition, DCMR 3-816.5 specifies that “candidates, or organizational group in support of or opposition to a ballot question no more than two (2) poll watchers at all phases of the recount, regardless of whether the candidate properly applied for poll watcher credentials pursuant to § 706. Candidates may also observe all phases of the recount in addition to their assigned poll watchers.” Rules also specify that, space permitting, members of the public shall also be given access to the place where the recount will occur. DCMR 3-816.6 and DCMR 3-706.

Observers and poll watchers may challenge ballots. “Any poll watcher or election observer who is uncertain whether a ballot is partially or totally invalid may refer the ballot to the Executive Director, or his or her designee, for a determination.” DCMR 3-802.3

Rules for Determining Voter Intent

Statutory guidance provided

Rules for determining voter intent are provided in DCMR 3-803. 

State Has Audit Laws
Yes
Revision Notes

This information was updated 10/4/18 using the District of Columbia Code (D.C. Code) current through Sept. 1, 2018 and the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR) updated through 9/13/17.