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 6/2/2020

The Maryland Election Law Code is available online at: www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/mdcode/

Voting System Used

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

For more details, visit Verified Voting.  

Counting Method

Counting method chosen by initiator

The Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) states that for votes cast on optical scan ballots, the recount initiator must specify the counting method to be used. The methods available include a poll tape review, an electronic retabulation, a manual count of the ballots and “any other recount option approved by the State Administrator.”  COMAR 33.12.05.02.   

The "procedure for recounting absentee and provisional ballots shall be the same as for recounting other ballots.” COMAR 33.12.04.03(A)(1).

Initiating Mechanisms

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated

Close Vote Margin Options

Less than or equal to 0.1%.
Initiated by request

Any candidate or voter can request a taxpayer-funded recount when the margin is 0.1% or less.  See the candidate-initiated and voter-intiated options below.

Candidate-Initiated Options

Candidate determines how many/which precincts to recount

Any candidate defeated in an election for public or party office may petition for a recount and shall specify in the petition whether the recount shall be conducted “in all of the precincts in which the office was on the ballot” or “only in the precincts designated in the petition.” Maryland Election Law Code (MD Elec. Law  Code), Title 12, Subtitle 1, Section 12-101(b). The petitioner is not liable for the costs of the recount if the "margin of difference in the number of votes received by an apparent winner and the losing candidate with the highest number of votes for an office is 0.1% or less of the total votes cast for those candidates."  See MD Elec. Law Code 12-107.  If the petitioner does not specify all precincts in which the office was on the ballot, and, “on completion of the recount, the winner of the election is changed,” a counterpetition may be filed by an opposing candidate to request “a recount of the votes for the office in the precincts not specified by the petitioner.” MD Elec. Law Code Section 12-102.

Timing: MD Elec. Law Code Sections 12-101(d) and 12-102(d). See also COMAR 33.12.02.09 and 33.12.02.10.

Voter-Initiated Options

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

Any registered voter may petition for a recount for a ballot question for which the voter was eligible to vote. The petitioner may specify whether all or only some precincts are to be recounted. MD Elec. Law Code Section 12-103(b).

If not all precincts are requested to be recounted in the original petition, and, on completion of the partial recount the outcome of the election is changed, a counterpetition may be filed requesting that the remaining precincts also be recounted. MD Elec. Law Code Sections 12-104(a) and (b).  The petitioner is not liable for the costs of the recount if the "margin of difference in the number of votes received by an apparent winner and the losing candidate with the highest number of votes for an office is 0.1% or less of the total votes cast for those candidates."  MD Elec. Law Code 12-107.

Timing: MD Elec. Law Code Sections 12-103(d) and 12-104(d).  See also COMAR 33.12.02.09 and 33.12.02.10.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts

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

A bond is set by a judge after the recount petition is filed, and it must be sufficient to pay the reasonable costs of the recount. MD Elec. Law Code Section 12-105.  The petitioner will not be liable for the costs of the recount if (1) the recount, changes the outcome of the election, (2) the recount results in a gain of “2% or more of the total votes cast for the office” in favor of the requesting candidate, or (3) if the "margin of difference in the number of votes received by an apparent winner and the losing candidate with the highest number of votes for an office is 0.1% or less of the total votes cast for those candidates."  Under those four circumstances, the costs of the recount are paid by the county.  MD Elec. Law Code Section 12-107.

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts

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

A bond is set by a judge after the recount petition is filed, and it must be sufficient to pay the reasonable costs of the recount. MD Elec. Law Code Section 12-105.  MD Elec. Law Code Section 12-105.  The petitioner will not be liable for the costs of the recount if (1) the recount, changes the outcome of the election, (2) the recount results in a gain of “2% or more of the total votes cast for the office” in favor of the requesting candidate, or (3) if the "margin of difference in the number of votes received by an apparent winner and the losing candidate with the highest number of votes for an office is 0.1% or less of the total votes cast for those candidates."   Under those four circumstances, the costs of the recount are paid by the county.  MD Elec. Law Code Section 12-107.

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

Election officials are required to “ensure the public’s ability to be present while the recount is conducted.” MD Elec. Law Code Section 12-106(a)(2). The Code of Maryland Regulations requires that “any person with standing to file a petition for the recount being conducted, even if that person was not the one who filed the actual petition,” may make a challenge “to any part of the recount.” COMAR 33.12.07.01 The Code also specifies that “[e]very recount shall be conducted publicly, open to candidates and their representatives, other parties to the recount, the media, and the general public.” COMAR 33.12.03.02.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent

Secretary of State or Election Board responsible for defining intent

See COMAR 33.16.06.02 for rules for interpreting voter intent, and COMAR 33.16.06.03 for rules for write-in votes. 

When ballots are being manually counted, election officials are required to first “evaluate the ballots to ensure that they are valid in accordance with recount procedures established by the State Board” and then, if “a team does not agree or cannot decide on the validity of a ballot or vote, the team shall refer the ballot to the election director, who shall submit it to the board for determination.” COMAR 33.12.05.04(E).  Similar requirements are not explicitly provided for when ballots are being retabulated electronically, COMAR 33.12.05.03.  For regulations governing determination of voter intent for absentee ballots during the canvassing process, see COMAR 33.11.04.07.

State Has Audit Laws
Yes

See MD Elec. Law Code 11-309 and COMAR 33.08.05.

Revision Notes

This information was updated 6/2/2020 using the Annotated Code of Maryland available at LexisNexis and current to changes received through chapter 18 of the 2020 session.  The Code of Maryland Regulations was viewed 61/2020, and these regulations were "effective to date."