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 12, 2020.

Voting System Used

Mixed paper ballot and DREs without VVPAT

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

In 2018,the State Board of Elections moved to require that all future election equipment purchased in Kentucky provide a voter-verified paper trail, and they set aside $4.6 million to upgrade electronic voting machines across Kentucky to provide a paper-trail. However, many counties continue to use direct recording equipment without veter verified paper trails. 

Counting Method

No statutory guidance provided for counting method

Of Kentucky's 120 counties, approximately 27 counties with a total 14% of all precincts use direct recording equipment without a voter verified paper audit trail. The remaining counties use voting equipment that include paperless DREs or optical scan machines with voter marked paper ballots.  No recount can be conducted on DREs without VVPATs, only an electronic review.  For those votes that are cast on paper ballots, we found no statutory guidance requiring ballots to be recounted by hand or retabulated by machine.

Initiating Mechanisms

Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated

Election official-initiated

Election Official-Initiated Recounts:
If precinct election officers report to the county clerk errors discovered in the process of conducting the polling or tabulation of votes, the clerk must file an action with the Circuit Court requesting a recount. See the Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) 120.017.

Timing: The county clerk is required to file an action in Circuit Court within 15 days of the election. KRS 120.017(2).

Candidate-Initiated Options

Contested election
Specific offices only

For primary elections, any candidate or slate of candidates may request a recount. KRS 120.095. Candidates may also contest a primary election in court, and in their petition to the court they may include a request for a recount. However, in order to contest a primary election, a candidate or slate of candidates must have earned at least 50% “of the votes cast for the successful candidate or slate of candidates for nomination to the office….” KRS 120.055.

For general elections, any candidate or slate of candidates for state, county, district or city office, may request a recount.  Some offices are excluded from this provision including the offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, member of the General Assembly, and those city offices as to which there are other provisions made by law for determining contested elections.  Recounts are handled by the same court that manages election contest proceedings. KRS 120.185 and 120.155.
 
Candidates may also make a written request for a recanvass. Depending on the voting equipment used on election day, a recanvass may involve an electronic review of DREs or central tabulation systems, a comparison poll tapes from voting machines, or if ballots were hand counted on election day, a manual recounting of those ballots. See the Kentucky Administrative Regulations, Title 31 (31 KAR), Chapter 4, Regulation 070. See also KRS 117.305.

Timing:  KRS 120.095 and 120.185.

Voter-Initiated Options

Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions

Any voter “who was qualified to and did vote on any public question other than a constitutional amendment or question of local option under KRS 242” may petition for a recount. The petition must state the grounds for requesting a recount.  KRS 120.250. See  KRS 120.280 for information about and recounts for constitutional conventions, constitutional amendments, and statewide public questions. 

Voters may also request recounts for Kentucky’s “local option” elections. KRS 242.120.

Timing: KRS 120.250 and 242.120.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts

Paid entirely by initiator
Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount

Candidates must execute a bond before the recount for all costs associated with the recount and in an amount to be determined by the Circuit Judge. KRS 120.095 and 120.185.

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts

Paid entirely by initiator
Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount

For recounts under KRS 120.250, contestants must provide a bond for the costs associated with the recount.  See also the costs for recounts under KRS 120.280.

Challengers and Observers

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

For recounts initiated by voters under KRS 120.250, two commissioners are appointed by the court to assist in the recount; one shall represent the contestant and one the contestee. Petitioners may also have an attorney present during the recount proceedings. KRS 120.260

For recounts initiated by voters under KRS 120.280, the attorneys representing the contestant and the Commonwealth's attorney representing the contestee may be present at all hearings on the recount. The contestant and contestee shall each be entitled to appoint one inspector, who shall be allowed to witness the recount. KRS 120.290.

There are no statutes specifying that candidates may appoint observers or challengers to recounts; however, at a recanvass, “each political party represented on the board may appoint a representative there to be its governing body, and also each candidate to be voted for may be present, either in person or by a representative or both.” KRS 117.305.

We found no requirements that recounts be conducted publicly.  

Rules for Determining Voter Intent

Statutory guidance provided

The Kentucky Administrative Regulations contain definitions of a valid vote. 31 KAR 6:030.

State Has Audit Laws
Yes
Revision Notes

This page was updated on 10/12/2020 using the Kentucky Revised Statutes (including enactments through the 2020 Regular Session) and the Kentucky Administrative Regulations (updated 10/2/2020).