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 10/29/2020 

The New York State Election Law and Rules may be downloaded here.

Voting System Used

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

For more details, visit Verified Voting

Counting Method

No statutory guidance provided for counting method (note the exceptions for hand counts below)​

For most elections, New York does not have close vote-margin recounts or candidate-initiated recounts (note the limited exceptions in the candidate and election official sections below). However, after every general, primary, special or village election in which ballot scanners are used, New York conducts a recanvass.  Although a recanvas may involve some hand counting of ballots, it is primarily a review of the voting machine results tapes to compare them to the numbers recorded on the canvass returns.  A recanvass is also done for any election day paper ballots that have not been scanned and were hand counted on election night and for write-in votes on ballots which were otherwise scanned and canvassed at polling places on election night; these recanvasses may involve some hand counting of ballots. New York Election Law (NY Elec L) § 9-208(1)

Note that the “county boards of elections, as well as the courts, retain the authority to order manual counts of those records [voter verifiable paper audit trail] in whole or in part under such other and additional circumstances as they deem warranted.”   Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York, Title 9, Subtitle V (9 CRR-NY) § 6210.18(h).

See also the ballot counting references in the election-official and audit-initiated recounts below.  

Initiating Mechanisms

Election official-initiated
Audit-initiated

Court-ordered
Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated​

Election Official-Initated Recounts:

If upon the recanvass of an election district a discrepancy exists between the number of voters who cast a vote in the district and the number of votes recorded on the tabulated results tape, the board of elections must thoroughly to examine all the election day paper ballots in that election district to determine the result.  NY Elec L § 9-208(3).

"Whenever the total number of votes tallied (including blank and void votes) for any office or party position… or tallied for any ballot proposal, does not exactly equal the number of ballots cast (including blank and void ballots), a recanvass must be made immediately in order to correct the error.” NY Elec L § 9-116(2).

Note that in 2017, election officials in some counties and cities decided to initiate full hand count audits as well as close-vote-margin recounts.  See pages 24-25 of the minutes of the New York State Board of Elections Commissioners Meeting, August 02, 2017.

Audit Initiated Recounts:

New York's audit law can lead to a full recount. These audit results are binding upon the official results only when a “complete audit” (full recount) has been conducted.  NY Elec L § 9-211(4).   See 9 CRR-NY § 6210.18 for the escalation protocol for expanding the audit up to a full recount.

Court-Ordered Recounts:

“The court may direct a recanvass or the correction of an error, or the performance of any duty imposed by law on such a state, county, city, town or village board of inspectors, or canvassers.” NY Elec L § 16-106(4).  See also court ordered manual audits. NY Elec L § 16-113.

Timing:  No statutory guidance for court ordered recounts. 

Close Vote Margin Options

Effective January 1, 2021, the board of elections or a bipartisan committee appointed by the board shall conduct a full manual recount of all ballots for a particular contest: where the margin of victory is twenty votes or less; or where the margin of victory is 0.5% or less; or in a contest where one million or more ballots have been cast and the margin of victory is less than 5,000 votes.  NY Elec L § 9-208 (4)

Candidate-Initiated Options

Specific offices only

Candidates may initiate a recanvass for village elections.  NY Elec L § 15-126(3).

Timing: NY Elec L 15-126(3).

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts

No statutory guidance provided

Challengers and Observers

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

Political parties and candidates may appoint “watchers” to be present both during voter registration and at the polls. NY Elec L § 5-206 and § 8-500. While these statutes do not state that watchers have the right to observe during recanvassing, according to the New York State Board of Elections, they "always allow watchers to be present at recanvases," and "the City Board allows watchers to be present for all aspects of canvasses and recavasses." 

Note that at the recanvasses, each “candidate whose name appears on the official ballot, or his or her representative, shall have the right personally to examine and make a record of the vote recorded on the tabulated result tape and any ballots which were hand counted.” NY Elec L § 9-208(1).

We found no rule or statute requiring that recanvasses to be open to the public. 

Rules for Determining Voter Intent

Statutory guidance provided

Instructions for counting votes and determining voter intent are contained in NY Elec L § 9-112.  See also 9 CRR-NY §§ 6210.15 and 6210.13.

State Has Audit Laws
Yes
Revision Notes

This information was updated 10/29/2020 using the 2019 New York Law--Election Law, the Election Law Update 2020, and the Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York current through March 15, 2020.