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 2/15/2020

The Tennessee Code Annotated can be accessed at: http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/tncode. See Title  2 "Elections."

Voting System Used

Mixed paper ballot and DREs without VVPAT

In 2008, Tennessee passed the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, requiring all 95 counties to use optical scan voting systems with paper ballots by the November 2010 general election. In 2010, the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act was amended to delay implementation of this requirement until “no later than the general election in 2012” (Public Chapter 612).  In 2011, the act was amended again to remove the requirement and instead make it optional for counties to use optical scan voting systems (Public Chapter 301).  In 2020, approximately 20 of Tennessee's counties use ballot making devices or hand marked paper ballots. The other 75 counties use direct recording electronic (DRE) systems without a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT).  

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method

Mix of hand count, retabulation and electronic review 
Counting method chosen by election official 

The count may be by hand or by retabulation. T.C.A. § 2-17-117(c) provides that “[t]he court or body with jurisdiction of a contested election shall determine if the recount shall be conducted by hand or with automated tabulators.”

Most counties in Tennessee currently use only direct-recording electronic machines (DREs) without a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT).  For those DREs, only an electronic review can be conducted. During contested elections, for example, “any party to the contest who challenges either the accuracy of the voting machines or the accuracy of the election officials' recording of the vote on the machines may have the machine or machines brought into court to be examined by the parties or as evidence,” but “[t]he total votes shown on the machine shall be conclusive unless the court finds reason to believe that the vote shown on the machine is not accurate.” T.C.A. § 2-17-110.  

Initiating Mechanisms

Court-ordered 

Court-Ordered Recounts:

Tennessee statute allows “any court, primary board, legislative body, or tribunal” with jurisdiction over contested elections to initiate a recount of ballots for both general and primary elections, but only under limited circumstances. These include a tie vote; an indication of fraud, or the malfunction of a voting machine; however, in each case only when an indiction that enough votes to alter the election have been affected.  Recounts may also be ordered in “any other instance” in which such a body “finds that a recount is warranted.” T.C.A. § 2-17-117(a). If a recount is ordered, all ballots cast in the election must be recounted. T.C.A. § 2-17-117(b).  

“The incumbent office holder and any candidate for the office may contest the outcome of an election for the office,” and “[a]ny campaign committee or individual which has charge of a campaign for the adoption or rejection of a question submitted to the people may contest the election on the question.”  T.C.A. § 2-17-101(b).  An election contest must be initiated by one of the foregoing before it proceeds to the recount stage, and the recount must be ordered by the body having jurisdiction over the election contest.

Timing: T.C.A. § 2-17-1052-17-106(a).

Close Vote Margin Options

N/A

While a court or other authorized body may initiate a recount in the instance of a tie vote, they are not required to do so.  T.C.A. § 2-17-117(a).  Note also that in the absence of a contested election, ties will be resolved in other ways, although not through the conduct of a recount. In general, the state election commission will cast the deciding vote, except that the county or municipal legislative body may either cast the deciding vote or call for a run-off election in the case of elections under their respective jurisdictions; a joint session of the general assembly will cast the deciding vote in the case of elections for governor; the governor will cast the deciding vote in the case of elections for representatives in congress; and tie votes in senate elections shall void the election and a new one will be ordered. T.C.A. § 2-8-111 & 2-8-114.

Candidate-Initiated Options

Contested Election

Candidates may initiate a contested election through which a court or other authorized body may order a recount. T.C.A. § 2-17-117(a) & 2-17-101(b) .  As noted above, candidates cannot request the recount directly; that is left up to the discretion of the court or authorized body and is only allowed under certain circumstances. 

For primary contests see T.C.A. § 2-17-104.  For legislative contests see T.C.A. § 2-17-102.  For gubernatorial contests see T.C.A. § 2-18-101.  For presidential contests see T.C.A. § 2-17-103.

Voter-Initiated Options

“Any campaign committee or individual which has charge of a campaign for the adoption or rejection of a question submitted to the people may contest the election on the question.” T.C.A. § 2-17-101(b).  As in the case with candidate-initiated contests, in its discretion and only under certain circumstances, the court or other authorized body may order a recount. T.C.A. § 2-17-117(a).  

Challengers and Observers

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

We found no statutes or rules governing observers or challengers during the court-ordered recount process, or requiring that recounts be conducted publicly. 

Rules for Determining Voter Intent

Statutory guidance provided

Most counties in Tennessee vote on DRE voting systems without a VVPAT.  However, some guidelines and rules for interpreting voter intent on paper ballots can be found  in T.C.A. § 2-7-133 and  Rule 1360-2-12-.05(7).

State Has Audit Laws
Yes
Revision Notes

This information was updated 2/15/2020 using the Tennessee Code Annotated (T.C.A.) current through the 2019 Regular Session of the Legislature.  The Rules and Regulations of the Tennessee Department of State effective as of 2/15/2020 were reviewed.