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 March 9, 2020.

The Michigan Compiled Laws (Mich. Comp. Laws) are available here.

Voting System Used

Paper ballot (hand marked paper ballots, BMDs for accessibility)

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method

Mix of hand count and retabulation
Counting method chosen by election official

Recounts conducted under the supervision of county canvassing boards are conducted using an electronic voting system unless one or more of certain conditions exist. These conditions are specified in statute and include discrepancies in the number of ballots issued and voted and discrepancies relating to the seals on ballot containers and transfer cases.  Mich. Comp. Laws 168.871(1).

Although the default method of counting is retabulation using an electronic voting system, Mich. Comp. Laws 168.871(4) provides boards of canvassers with other options for counting ballots and states that recounts may be conducted by any, or any combination of the following means: a manual tally of the ballots; a tabulation of the ballots on a computer using a software application designed to specifically count only the office or ballot question subject to the recount; or a tabulation of the ballots on a computer using the same software application used in the precinct on election day. 

Any recount conducted under the direction, supervision and control of the state board of canvassers is conducted in the same manner (as far as applicable) as is provided for the conduct of recounts by county boards of canvassers. Mich. Comp. Laws 168.891.

Initiating Mechanisms

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated

Close Vote Margin Options

Vote count difference (not percentage-based)
Initiated automatically

For statewide offices and ballot measures, a taxpayer funded recount is initiated automatically when the vote differential is 2,000 votes or less, regardless of the number of votes cast in the election.  This requirement applies to statewide primary or general elections, except for partisan offices in which more than one person is elected. Additional exceptions are noted in the Bureau of Elections “Election Recounts” manual (see page 5).  Mich. Comp. Laws 168.880a(1).

Timing: Mich. Comp. Laws 168.880a.

Candidate-Initiated Options

Candidate determines how many/which precincts to recount
Party official may petition for candidate

Any candidate at the county, city, township or village level who believes he or she is aggrieved on account of fraud or mistake in the canvass or returns of the votes may apply for a recount of one or multiple precincts. The candidate must be able to “allege a good-faith belief that but for fraud or mistake, the candidate would have had a reasonable chance of winning the election.”  Mich. Comp. Laws 168.862.

A candidate for an office canvassed by the board of state canvassers  including the offices of U.S. Senator or U.S. Representative, or the offices of state representative or senator for a district located wholly within 1 county, may petition for a recount of the votes.  The petition must allege that the candidate is “aggrieved on account of fraud or mistake in the canvass of the votes by the inspectors of election or the returns...” and that the candidate is "able to allege a good-faith belief that but for fraud or mistake, the candidate would have had a reasonable chance of winning the election.”  Mich. Comp. Laws 168.879(1).  Section 168.879 does not apply to presidential primary candidates. Mich. Comp. Laws 168.879a.

For elections for state senators and representatives, party officials may petition for recounts when the  vote margin is 500 votes or less for senatorial contests and 200 votes or less for representative contests.  In these cases the state political party chair may  apply for a recount on behalf of the candidate and need not allege fraud or mistake. Mich. Comp. Laws 168.879(2).

Timing: Mich. Comp. Laws 168.879(1)(c), 168.866(3) and 168.875.

Voter-Initiated Options

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

Any qualified and registered elector who alleges fraud or error in the canvass of the votes may request a recount on ballot questions, propositions, or charter and constitutional amendments, at the state, county, city, township, school district, community college district, or village, level. Mich. Comp. Laws 168.880 and 168.863.

Timing: Mich. Comp. Laws 168.880, 168.866(3) and 168.875.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts

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

For candidate initiated recounts under the authority of state or county boards of canvassers, the deposit per precinct is determined by the vote margin between the winning candidate and the petitioner.  Mich. Comp. Laws 168.867 and 168.881.

The entire deposit is refunded if the recount reverses the result of the election. Mich. Comp. Laws 168.867(7) and 168.881(7).

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts

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

For voter initiated recounts under the authority of state or county boards of canvassers, the deposit per precinct is determined by the vote margin between the winning candidate and the petitioner.  Mich. Comp. Laws 168.867 and 168.881.

The entire deposit is refunded if the recount reverses the result of the election. Mich. Comp. Laws 168.867(7) and 168.881(7).

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

Recounts are public. Mich. Admin. Code 168.927 and Mich. Comp. Laws 168.889.

Two representatives  and one attorney for each recount initiator are allowed to observe the recount.  Mich. Admin. Code 168.907 and 168.916. The role of these representatives in challenging ballots varies on the counting method used during the recount. During the use of voting machines, they do not have the ability to challenge individual ballots as they are counted, but they are allowed to dictate challenges and objections to the proceedings in the record of the recount, and to argue for these objections to board of canvassers after the recounting is completed. Mich. Admin. Code 168.913 and 168.914.

Where ballots are recounted by hand, candidate and petitioner representatives “shall be afforded an opportunity to observe the opening of ballot boxes and each ballot as the votes are called and to make such notations on their private records as they may desire.” Mich. Admin. Code 168.916.

Any ballot under protest by any interested party’s representative “shall be identified…and be presented to the board of county canvassers for its decision. Representatives of each interested party shall be afforded an opportunity to submit authorities and argument to the board of county canvassers for counting or rejecting each such challenged ballot…."  Mich. Admin. Code 168.925.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent

Statutory guidance provided

See Mich. Comp. Laws 168.803 for guidelines on interpreting voter intent.  Further details are provided in Mich. Admin. Code 168.923 and 168.924.

State Has Audit Laws
Yes
Revision Notes

This information was updated 3/9/2020 using the Michigan Compiled Laws complete through Public Act 32 of 2020. The Michigan Administrative Code was viewed 3/9/2020 on the website of the Michigan Administrative Rulemaking System, Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.