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 in 10/23/2020.

Voting System Used

Mixed paper ballot and DREs with VVPAT

For more details visit Verified Voting.

For direct-recording electronic (DRE) machines with a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT), the VVPAT serves as the official ballot to be used in recounts. See the Ohio Revised Code (ORC), Title 35, Section 3506.18

Counting Method

Required hand count of a sample of ballots in addition to other counting methods
Mix of hand count and retabulation

Election officials are required to randomly select precincts whose votes together equal 5% of the total votes cast for the office. 

In the randomly selected precincts with optical scan voting machines, the ballots will be hand counted and then run through the optical scan tabulator.  The electronic results of this retabulation are compared with the hand count tally. If the electronic results and the hand count tally are identical, the recount proceeds by retabulating “each ballot from each precinct on which the candidate contest, question or issue to be recounted appears…”  Election Official Manual (EOM), Chapter 9, Section 1.02. p. 16.

If there is a difference between the hand count tally and the electronic results, then election officials must complete a verification process to determine the source of this difference.  “If, after three rounds of hand-tallying the ballots for each randomly selected precincts still do not match, all ballots on which the candidate contest, question or issue to be recounted appears shall be hand-tallied.” EOM, Chapter 9, Section 1.02. p. 17.

In the randomly selected precincts with DREs, a hand count of the VVPATs  is compared to the electronic summary of the initial election results. If there is a difference between the hand count and the electronic summary, election officials must complete a  verification process to determine the source of this difference.

“If, after three rounds of hand tallying, the voter verified paper audit trail for that DRE still does not match, the final hand tally of the voter verified paper audit trail for that DRE shall be the recounted tally for that candidate contest, question, or issue. EOM, Chapter 9, Section 1.02. pp. 18-19.

Initiating Mechanisms

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated

Close Vote Margin Options

Less than or equal to 0.5%
Less than or equal to 0.25%
Varies by election contest
Initiated automatically

If the number of votes cast in any district, county or municipal election for the declared winning nominee, candidate, question, or issue does not exceed the number of votes cast for the declared defeated nominee, candidate, question, or issue by a margin of one-half of one per cent or more of the total vote, the appropriate board of elections shall order a recount. ORC § 3515.011.

If the number of votes cast in any statewide election for the declared winning nominee, candidate, question, or issue does not exceed the number of votes cast for the declared defeated nominee, candidate, question, or issue by a margin of one-fourth of one percent or more of the total vote, the secretary of state shall order a recount. ORC § 3515.011.

Details on calculating the close vote margin can also be found in EOM, Chapter 9, Section 1.02. p. 4.

Timing:  ORC § 3515.03. Separate timing requirements are set out for recounting votes for presidential electors.  ORC § 3515.041.

Candidate-Initiated Options

Candidate determines how many/which precincts to recount

Any candidate who received votes in a general, special, or primary election but was not declared the winner or nominee may request a recount, for any or all of the precincts in which their office was voted upon.  ORC § 3515.01. The apparent winning candidate may also file for a recount for any precincts not included in the apparent defeated candidate's request, but only if the recount has altered the election results. ORC § 3515.06.

Timing:  ORC § 3515.02 and ORC § 3515.06.

Voter-Initiated Options

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

Any five voters may together request a recount for either a ballot question or issue. Voters must state whether they voted "Yes" or "No" on the ballot question or issue. ORC § 3515.01. Additional groups of five voters may request a recount for any precincts not included in the original request, if the recounting has altered the election result. ORC § 3515.06.

Timing: The application for a recount must be filed within five days after results are declared. ORC § 3515.02.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts

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

Recount applications, whether initiated by voters or by candidates, are to be accompanied by a $60 per precinct deposit. Actual expenses are later calculated by election officials and deducted from this deposit.  EOM, Chapter 9, Section 1.02. pp 6-7.

If a gain of 4% or more of the votes cast in a given precinct is made in favor of the recount applicant, the applicant will not be charged for that precinct. If the outcome of the election is decided in favor of the applicant, no costs for any precincts will be charged to the applicant. ORC § 3515.07.

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

Recount applications, whether initiated by voters or by candidates, are to be accompanied by a $60 per precinct deposit. Actual expenses are later calculated by election officials and deducted from this deposit. EOM, Chapter 9, Section 1.02. pp 6-7.

If a gain of 4% or more of the votes cast in a given precinct is made in favor of the recount applicant, the applicant will not be charged for that precinct. If the outcome of the election is decided in favor of the applicant, no costs for any precincts will be charged to the applicant. ORC § 3515.07.

Challengers and Observers

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

Any applicant for a recount, and any candidate for whom votes were cast for such an office, is entitled both to “attend and observe the recount,” and to “have any person whom the candidate designates attend and observe the recount.” ORC § 3515.03. Voters filing for a recount on a question or issue must designate a chairman to represent their group, and both the chairman and a designated attorney may request that they be allowed to attend and observe the recount.  ORC § 3515.03.  Ohio statute also specifies that recounts may arise during an election contest, and that both the contestor and contestee may appoint one observer to attend and view the recount.  ORC § 3515.13. Ohio does not require that recounts be conducted publicly, and instead limits observers to persons identified in ORC § 3515.03. See also the rules for observers in the EOM, Chapter 7. Section 1.08.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent

Statutory guidance provided

Guidelines for determining voter intent on optical scan ballots can be found in ORC § 3506.21.

State Has Audit Laws
Yes

See ORC 3505.331.  See also EOM, Chapter 9, Section 1.03. pp. 20-26.

Revision Notes

This information was updated 10/23/2020 using the Ohio Revised Code.