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 on October 29th, 2020. 

Note: See the “2018 Recount Guide" found here.

Voting System Used

Paper ballot (optical scanners, hand counted paper ballots, or a mix)

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method

Hand count only

As of 2008, all recounts in Minnesota are to be conducted manually. The exact changes in the law requiring manual counts can be viewed here. The counting method is described in MS 204C.21.

Initiating Mechanisms

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

Election Official-Initiated Recounts
"The secretary of state may conduct a recount to verify the accuracy of vote counting and recording in one or more precincts in which an electronic voting system was used in the election. The results of the recount must be reported to the appropriate canvassing board."   See MS 206.88.

Audit-Initiated Recounts:
Minnesota's post-election audit law (referred to in statute as a “postelection review”) contains a three-stage escalation protocol. For the final stage, the law states that if audits in “one or more counties comprising in the aggregate more than ten percent of the total number of persons voting in the election clearly indicate that an error in vote counting has occurred,” a manual recount is to be conducted. See MS 206.89 (5)(b).

Close Vote Margin Options

Varies by election contest
Vote count difference (not percentage-based)
Varies by number of votes cast
Initiated by request

Note; while statutory changes made in 2013 now require that all candidates must request a recount when the vote margin is below a certain level, we still consider this a “Close vote margin – initiated” recount because the primary initiating mechanism is the close-vote trigger which entitles candidates to a publicly funded recount. 

For federal, statewide and district judicial races, a losing candidate can request a recount if the margin of victory is below 0.25% of the total number of votes counted or is ten votes or less and the total number of votes cast is 400 votes or less.  See MS 204C.35(1)(a)(2) and (b)(2).

For state legislative races a losing candidate can request a recount if the margin of victory is below 0.5% of the total number of votes  counted or is ten votes or less and the total number of votes cast for the nomination is 400 votes or less.  See MS 204C.35(1)(a)(1) and MS 204C.35(1)(b)(1).

For county, school district and municipal election contests, a losing candidate can request a recount if the margin of victory is less than 0.25% of the total number of votes counted for that nomination or election. See MS 204C.36(1)(a).  A losing candidate can also request a recount if the difference between the vote cast for that candidate and for a winning candidate is less that 0.5% and the total number of votes cast for all candidates is more than 400 but less than 50,000, or if the difference is ten votes or less and the total number of votes cast for the nomination or election of all candidates is not more than 400.  See MS 204C.36(1)(b) & (c).

The close vote margin is calculated by dividing the difference between the defeated candidate and the apparent winning candidate by the total number of votes cast for the office. See MS 204C.36 (1) for recounts in county, school, district, and municipal elections and 204C.35 (1) for federal, state, and judicial races.

Candidate-Initiated Options

Candidate determines how many/which precincts to recount

Any candidate who loses by a margin greater than the close vote margin (as discussed above) can pay to have a recount conducted.  See MS 204C.35(2)(a) and 204C.36(2)(a).  Candidates who pay for a discretionary recount may select the first three precincts that are to be recounted and may waive the balance of the recount. See MS 204C.35(2)(d) and 204C.36(2)(b).

Timing:  See MS 204C.35,(2)(C) and MS 204C.36(2)(C).

Voter-Initiated Options

Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions

When a ballot measure loses by a margin greater than the close vote margin as discussed above, any voter eligible to vote on the ballot question, in a county, school district or municipal election can pay to have a recount conducted. To so do, a voter must file for a recount by submitting a petition including signatures from 25 similarly eligible voters. See MS 204C.36(3).

Timing:  See MS 204C.36(3) & (5).

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts

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

The costs for the petitioner are detailed in MS 204C.36, (4).  However, if the recount changes the result or if the difference between the original count and the recount exceeds the standard for acceptable voting system performance, the jurisdiction conducting the recount is responsible for the costs.  See MS 204C.36(2)(e) & (f)

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts

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

If the difference falls outside the close vote margin, voters may still request a recount for county, school district or municipal ballot measures, but are liable for all specified expenses. See MS 204C.36(3).  Unlike candidate-initiated discretionary recounts, the statute is silent with respect to what happens if the recount of a ballot question changes the result, or indicates that the voting system did not perform within the acceptable performance standard.

Challengers and Observers

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

Both candidates and voters who initiate recounts may appoint representatives who have the ability to challenge ballots during the recount process. See Minnesota Administrative Rules, Chapter 8235.0800. The Rules also specify that recounts are open to the public. See Chapter 8235.0600.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent

Statutory guidance provided

Minnesota's statutes provide specific rules for determining the validity of marks made by voters. See MS 204C.22.

State Has Audit Laws
Yes
Revision Notes

This information was updated on October 29th, 2020 using the 2019 Minnesota Statutes.