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.

All statutory citations are from Florida Statutes Title IX,  Electors and Elections.

Voting System Used

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

For more details, visit Verified Voting.  See also the August 1, 2020 listing of voting equipment in use by county available from the Florida Division of Elections.

Counting Method

Mix of hand count and retabulation

 A close vote margin of less than or equal to 0.5%  initiates a machine recount. Paper ballots are retabulated using automatic tabulating equipment.  Section 102.141(7) & (7)(a).  If this retabulation shows that the close vote margin is less than or equal to 0.25% , a manual recount is conducted.  However, this manual recount applies only to those ballots sorted by the automatic tabulating equipment as having either undervotes or overvotes for the office or measure in question; and the hand count cannot be held if  "The number of overvotes and undervotes is fewer than the number of votes needed to change the outcome of the election."  Section 102.166(1)(b).

Initiating Mechanisms

Close vote margin

Close Vote Margin Options

Less than or equal to 0.5%
Initiated Automatically

The close vote margin for Florida elections is less than or equal to 0.5% of the total votes cast for a given office or measure. These recounts are initiated automatically by election officials. The law specifies that candidates, including candidates for retention to a judicial office, and ballot measures are all subject to recounts. Both primary and general elections are eligible for recounts.  The candidate or candidates who are defeated by the close-vote margin may  waive the recount if  a request is made in writing to the canvassing board. Section 102.141(7).

As noted in the counting methods above, the close-vote margin  first initiates a retabulation of the paper ballots. If the retabulation results in a vote margin that is less than or equal to 0.25%, a hand recount is conducted.  However, the hand recount is only for those ballots containing undervotes or overvotes, and is required  only if the candidate or candidates decline to waive the manual count and the collective total of undervotes and overvotes is enough to alter the result of the election.  Section 102.166(1).

The presidential preference primary and political party executive committee positions are not subject to the close-vote-margin recount. Recount Procedure Summary  (p.1).

Timing: "The returns shall be filed no later than 3 p.m. on the 5th day after any primary election and no later than 3 p.m. on the 9th day after any general election in which a recount was ordered by the Secretary of State." Section 102.141(7)(c).

Challengers and Observers

Statutes specify that recount must be public
Party/candidate or initiator has statutory authority to appoint challengers
No statutory guidance for recount observers

Section 102.166, (3) specifies that the hand recount shall be open to the public and Section 102.141(2).  specifies that the county canvassing board shall meet publicly when canvassing. The  Florida Administrative Code  clarifies that both retabulations and hand recounts shall be open to the public. Rule 1S-2.031(2)(e ).

Section 102.166(5)(d) requires the Department of State to make rules regarding both public observers of the manual recount as well as “procedures relating to candidate and petitioner representatives.” Candidates whose “ultimate success or failure in the race” could be impacted by a recount are entitled to representatives at the recount, and if it is a partisan contest, the political parties for the affected candidate are also entitled to one representative each. All representatives must be placed on a list for election officials.  For ballot measures and issues, political committees may be entitled to have a representative if they have filed before the election support for or against the measure. Rule 1S-2.031(3)(d) and (e).

Rules for Determining Voter Intent

The Florida's statutes state that "A vote for a candidate or ballot measure shall be counted if there is a clear indication on the ballot that the voter has made a definite choice," and that "The Department of State shall adopt specific rules for each certified voting system prescribing what constitutes a "clear indication on the ballot that the voter has made a definite choice."  Section 102.166(4)(a) and (b).  See also Rule 1S-2.027.

State Has Audit Laws
Yes
Revision Notes

Note that the 2020 Florida Statutes contain some changes that are not effective until Jan. 1, 2021.  See the changes for sections 102.141 and 102.166 in Chapter 2020-109.