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 2/13/2020.

Voting System Used

Paper ballot (ballot marking devices)

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method

Retabulation only

In 2019, South Carolina transitioned its voting equipment from direct recording electronic devices to the use of ballot marking devices (BMDs).  The BMDs will be used statewide for the first time for the Democratic Presidential Preference Primary on February 29, 2020. There are currently no statutes or rules that specify the counting method for recounts of BMD ballots; however, according the South Carolina State Election Commission, "a recount would be conducted by re-scanning and re-tabulating all ballots cast for the office being recounted."

Initiating Mechanisms

Close vote margin

Close Vote Margin Options

Less than or equal to 1%
Initiated automatically

Taxpayer funded recounts are initiated automatically whenever “the difference between the number of votes received by a candidate who has been declared nominated for an office in a primary election or who has been declared elected to an office in a general election and the number of votes received by any other candidate or candidate not declared so nominated or elected….shall be not more than one percent of the total votes which were cast for such office therein, the committee or board charged by law with canvassing such votes shall order a recount of such votes to be made forthwith unless such other candidate or candidates shall waive a recount in writing.  Whenever the difference between the number of votes cast in favor of and opposed to any constitutional amendment, question or other issue is not more than one percent of the total cast thereon, the Board of State Canvassers shall order a recount of such votes to be made forthwith.  unless such other candidate or candidates shall waive a recount in writing.”  South Carolina Code of Laws (SC Code) § 7-17-280.

If the difference between the vote totals is more than 1 percent, there is no option in state law for a recount. 

Timing:  SC Code § 7-17-280. Note that the Municipal Election Commission Handbook (see "Manadatory Recounts," p.21) states that a recount is not conducted on election night.  A recount cannot be conducted until it is officially ordered at the canvass and certification meeting of Municipal Election Commission. 

Challengers and Observers

No statutory guidance for recount observers
No statutory guidance for recount challengers

We found no statutes requiring that recounts be conducted publicly and no guidance for recount challengers; however, according to the South Carolina State Election Commission "the public is allowed to observe the recount" and there is "no challenging of interpretation of voter intent....When interpretation of a hand-marked ballot occurs, it is done publicly, and there is a record of the original ballot and the interpreted ballot."

The Municipal Election Commission Handbook (p.21) states that Commission "must post a public notice 24 hours before meeting." 

Rules for Determining Voter Intent

Statutory guidance provided

In 2020, most South Carolina voters will mark their ballots with a ballot marking device. For hand marked paper ballots such as absentee, provisional and emergency ballots, the following counting rules apply. 

 “If a voter marks more names than there are persons to be elected or nominated to an office or if for any reason it is impossible to determine the voter's choice for any office to be filled, his ballot shall not be counted for such office….”  SC Code § 7-13-1120

For determining voter intent for write-in votes, see SC Code § 7-15-750.

See also the 2020 Poll Managers Handbook (p.53) where it states: “A vote must be counted when there is reasonable certainty as to the voter’s intent in choice of candidate or answer to a question. The determination of a voter’s choice is sometimes a difficult task. The voter may make unclear marks making determining how the voter intended to vote difficult. Managers are required to exercise their best judgment as to how the voter intended to cast his ballot. If it is impossible to tell how the voter intended to vote in a particular contest, no vote can be counted for that contest, but votes may be counted for other contests on the ballot.”

State Has Audit Laws
No
Revision Notes

This information was updated Feb. 4, 2020 using the South Carolina Code of Laws (SC Code) current through the 2019 Session of the General Assembly.  The South Carolina Code of State Regulations--current through the State Register Volume 43, Issue 9, effective September 27, 2019--contained no relevant regulations.  Additional information from the State Election Commission was added Feb. 13, 2020.