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 11/1/2020.

Voting System Used

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

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method

Hand count only

Ballots are to be recounted by hand.  See Montana Code Annotated (MCA) 13-16-412 and MCA 13.15.206(2).

Initiating Mechanisms

Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated
Election official-initiated
Court-ordered

Close Vote Margin

Election Official-Initiated Recounts:
A canvassing board may petition for a recount if they believe there to be errors affecting the accuracy of the vote totals. See MCA 13-16-201(1)(f) and MCA 13-15-403.

Timing: MCA 13-15-403 and  13-16-204.

Court-Ordered Recounts:

Court-ordered recounts must be initiated by either a candidate or voter before the court may determine the need for a recount. The final decision remains with the court, which determines whether “there is probable cause to believe that the votes cast for the applicant or the ballot issue were not correctly counted.” Any “unsuccessful candidate for any public office at an election” may request a recount with the court for “any or all of the precincts” in which they were on the ballot. Similarly, any voter who was eligible to vote on a ballot issue may petition for a recount. See MCA 13-16-301.

Timing: See MCA 13-16-301.

Close Vote Margin Options

Less than or equal to 0.25%
Initiated automatically (for tie votes)
Initiated by request (for candidate and voter initiated recounts)

A tie vote will trigger an automatic recount.  See MCA 13-16-203.   See the details below for close-vote margin recounts intitiated by candidates and voters. 

Candidate-Initiated Options

Close vote margin required

Candidates are entitled to a recount if there is a close vote margin for their contest, which varies depending on the office sought. For candidates seeking a county, municipal, or district office voted for only in one county other than a legislator or a judge of the district court, the vote margin between the recount initiator and the apparent winning candidate must be .25% or less of all votes cast, or 10 votes or less, whichever is greater. See MCA 13-16-201(1)(a).

For candidates seeking congressional or state office, a district office voted on in more than one county, or a legislative or district court judicial office, the vote margin must be .25% or less of the votes cast for all candidates. See MCA 13-16-201(1)(b). Regarding federal offices, while MCA 13-16-201 mentions only congressional offices, a separate statute allows for recounts for any candidate for public office, if there is a close vote margin of greater than .25% but less than .5% of the total votes cast for all candidates for the same office, and if the candidate pays a bond for the recount. See MCA 13-16-211.

Timing: See MCA 13-16-201, 13-16-204 & 13-16-211.

Voter-Initiated Options

Close vote margin required
Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions

Voters may request recounts for ballot questions at the municipal, county, district, or state level. For all, there is a close vote margin of .25% or less. The request must include signatures from multiple voters, the number of which varies depending on the jurisdictional level. For questions voted on in municipalities, counties, or districts within a single county, the request must include at least 10 signatures. For questions voted on in multicounty districts, 25 signatures are required. For questions voted on at the state level, 100 signatures are required. See MCA 13-16-201(1)(c)(d) and (e).

Timing: See MCA 13-16-201, 13-16-204.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts

Paid entirely by state or county
Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount

Payer of costs depends on outcome of recount

Candidates are not assessed the recount costs if there is a close vote margin of not more than .25% of the total votes cast for all candidates for that office. See MCA 13-16-205.  For contests in which there is a vote margin of more than .25% (but not exceeding .5%), candidates must pay a bond covering the entire cost of the recount. There is no mention made of this bond being refunded if the outcome of the election is changed. See MCA 13-16-211.

Candidates are responsible for the entirety of costs for court-ordered recounts, and must pay a bond before the recount begins. However, if the recount determines the initiator to be the winner of the election, the bond is refunded. See MCA 13-16-307.

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts

Paid entirely by state or county
Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount
Payer of costs depends on outcome of recount

Voters requesting a recount on any ballot question for which the close vote margin is .25% or less are not assessed any of the recount costs. See MCA 13-16-205.

Initiators are responsible for the entirety of costs for court-ordered recounts, and must pay a bond before the recount begins. However, if the recount changes the outcome of the election, the bond is refunded. See MCA 13-16-307.

Challengers and Observers

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

Recounts must be public and news media may be present. Recount initiators may be present or appoint a representative to observe the process. For ballot issues, one voter representing each side of the question may observe. See MCA 13-16-411.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent

Secretary of State or Election Board responsible for defining intent

The Secretary of State is charged with developing rules on voter intent. Using these rules, a majority of the members of a counting or recounting board must agree that the voter intent is clear for the vote to be considered valid. See MCA 13-15-206. The Secretary of State's rule on the matter can be found in the Administrative Rules of Montana, Rule, 44.3.2402 with additional rules for write-in votes (44.3.2403) and federal write-in absentee ballots (44.3.2405).

State Has Audit Laws
Yes
Revision Notes

This information was updated 11/1/2020 using the Montana Code Annotated 2019.