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 10/31/2020. 

Note: Please read the counting method section first to understand the process by which votes are recounted or reviewed in Texas.  In the text below, we use the word “recount” to reference voting machine retabulations, electronic reviews as well as manual recounts. 

Voting System Used

Mixed baper ballot and DREs without VVPAT

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method

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

A large number of precincts in Texas use direct-recording electronic machines (DREs) without a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT), meaning that only an electronic review can be conducted for many votes. No description of the electronic review is provided.  The Secretary of State is tasked with prescribing the counting procedures for a recount of votes on DREs.  See the Texas Statutes-Election Code (TEC), Title 13, Section 214.071.  The statutes mention the use of DRE "ballot images" in recounts.  TEC 213.016.

For automatic recounts in the case of a tie vote, the counting method is the same as that used for the election, resulting in a mix of recount, retabulation and electronic review in various precincts.  TEC 216.004.

For candidate and voter-initiated recounts, the initiator may choose the counting method. For votes cast on paper ballots, they may choose a hand count of the ballots. They may also choose a recount by retabulating the ballots on automatic tabulating equipment, which the Texas Election Code refers to as an “electronic recount.” However, they must choose the same counting method for all precincts in which the recount is to be conducted.  TEC 214.042.

For those precincts with paper ballots, if after a program test the initiator is dissatisfied with the program or equipment, they may request an alternative counting method.  TEC 214.048.  If two petitions for a recount are submitted for the same office, and one petitioner requests the recount be done by hand, the recount shall be conducted by hand. TEC 212.005(D).

For additional information on recounts in Texas, see the "Procedures to Request and Conduct a Recount,” provided by the Office of the Texas Secretary of State.

Initiating Mechanisms

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated

Voter-initiated

Close Vote Margin Options

Tie vote only
Initiated automatically

There is an automatic recount if an election for an office results in a tie. There are no automatic recounts for any other close vote margins. TEC 216.  For the automatic recount to take place, the appropriate election authority must file for the recount in the same manner as other recount petitioners (i.e., candidates or voters). TEC 216.003.

Timing:  TEC 216.003. See also the timing requirements for initial recounts for candidate-initiated options.

Candidate-Initiated Options

Close vote margin required
Candidate determines how many/which precincts to recount

Texas law distinguishes between three different types of recounts for which a candidate may apply: initial, supplementary, and expedited.

An initial recount is the first recount that takes place. TEC 212.022. If the initial recount is partial, as defined by statute, and does not cover all votes cast for the office, a supplementary recount may be requested. TEC 212.051.  In addition, during an initial recount, when a petition is approved for a partial recount in election precincts in which paper ballots were used, any opposing candidate may have the remaining election precincts in which paper ballots were used included in the initial recount. TEC 212.035(a).  The requirements and restrictions for initial recounts depend on the office recounted as well as the type of voting system utilized in the requested precinct.  

Initial Recounts
Initial recounts are available for all candidates except those for whom a majority vote is required for office and for which voters cast votes for more than two candidates for the office. TEC 212.081. For these exceptions, candidates may apply for an expedited recount (see “Expedited Recounts” below for details.) Additionally, there are different requirements for presidential recounts in both primary and general elections.

For those precincts in which DREs or optical scan systems are used, any defeated candidate may request a recount of the electronic voting system results without showing grounds and without a close vote margin. TEC 212.0241.

TEC 212.022 states that a candidate for nomination or election to an office may obtain an initial recount in an election in which the person was a candidate if:
“(1)  the difference in the number of votes received by the candidate and any candidate for the office who is shown by the election returns to be nominated, elected, or entitled to a place on a runoff ballot or tied for nomination, election, or entitlement to a place on a runoff ballot is less than 10 percent of that candidate's number of votes;
(2)  the candidate is shown by the election returns to be entitled to a place on a runoff ballot or tied for nomination, election, or entitlement to a place on a runoff ballot;
(3)  the secretary of state certifies that counting errors affecting the election occurred in one or more election precincts in which paper ballots were used, as provided by Section 212.034;  or
(4)  the total number of votes received by all candidates for the office is less than 1,000 as shown by the election returns.“

For presidential primaries, see TEC 212.0231.

Candidates who allege that errors occurred during the initial canvass may request a recount, but with their application they must submit signed affidavits from election judges alleging counting errors.  Other candidates must be notified of the petition and are allowed the opportunity to likewise submit affidavits from judges who claim no errors occurred. The Secretary of State is required to evaluate all affidavits, and may not approve the request for a recount “if the facts are disputed or raise unresolved legal questions as to whether counting errors occurred.”  TEC 212.034.
  
Timing:  TEC 212.028.

Supplementary Recounts
Supplementary recounts may take place if an initial recount is only a partial recount and there are precincts for a given office that have not yet been recounted.  These recounts are available only if the results of the partial recount fit certain criteria.  TEC 212.053. Supplementary recounts take place only for those precincts using paper ballots. TEC 212.052.

Timing:  TEC 212.056.

Expedited Recounts
Candidates may apply for an expedited recount if a majority vote (not a plurality) is required for the nomination or election to the office and if votes were cast for more than two candidates. TEC 212.081. Expedited recounts are initiated by petitions submitted and processed in accordance with Subchapter B (Initial Recounts).  TEC 212.082.

Timing: Note the expedited deadline for submitting petitions in TEC 212.083.

Voter-Initiated Options

Close vote margin required
Voters determine how many/which precincts to recount
Voters may request recounts for offices
Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions

Voters may request initial and supplementary recounts for ballot measures if: (1)  the difference in the number of votes received for the measure and against the measure is less than 10 percent of the total number of votes received on the measure as shown by the election returns; (2)  the secretary of state certifies that counting errors affecting the election occurred in one or more election precincts in which paper ballots were used, as provided by Section 212.034;  or (3)  the total number of votes received for and against the measure is less than 1,000 as shown by the election returns.  TEC 212.024.

Under certain circumstances, voters may also request a recount for presidential primaries. TEC 212.0231.

All voter-initiated recounts require a minimum of 25 voters to jointly file the recount request. TEC 212.024.  If the initial recount is partial, as defined by statute, and does not cover all votes cast for the office or measure at hand, a supplementary recount may also be requested. TEC 212.053.  Note that campaign treasurers of a specific-purpose political committee may also petition for recounts of ballot measures. TEC 212.024.

Timing: For initial recounts, see TEC 212.028.  For supplementary see TEC 212.056.

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 initiators must pay a deposit before the recount begins. The amount of the deposit depends on the counting method chosen by the initiator. The deposit is $60 per precinct in which hand counted paper ballots were used and $100 per precinct in which an electronic voting system was used. TEC 212.112.  Whether the votes are recounted by hand, retabulated, or electronically reviewed, the full costs of the recount are assessed against the initiator unless the recount changes the outcome of the election. TEC 215.003 and 215.004. There are additional circumstances under which a deposit would be returned, such as rejection or withdrawal of the petition (TEC 212.113), or if the deposit exceeds the assessed costs. TEC 215.004(b)).

The costs of automatic recounts are paid by the political subdivisions or county executive committees. TEC 216.005.

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 petitioners must pay a deposit before the recount begins. The amount of the deposit depends on the counting method chosen by the initiator. The deposit is $60 per precinct in which hand counted paper ballots were used, and $100 per precinct in which an electronic voting system was used. TEC 212.112.  Whether the votes are recounted by hand, retabulated, or electronically reviewed, the full costs of the recount are assessed against the initiator unless the recount changes the outcome of the election. TEC 215.003 and 215.2004.

There are also additional circumstances under which a deposit would be returned, such as rejection or withdrawal of the petition (TEC 212.113), or if the deposit exceeds the assessed costs (TEC 215.004(b)).

Challengers and Observers

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

Recount petitioners and political parties are entitled to have watchers present for each counting team in the recount.  Watchers are not given the authority to challenge ballots. TEC 213.013.  Observation of the recount by the public is prohibited.  TEC 213.015.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent

Statutory guidance provided

See TEC 65.009  and 64.003 through 64.006 for rules for determining voter intent.  The chair of a recount committee has the same authority as an election judge to inteprete a voter's mark on a ballot and make a determination on whether it will be counted. TEC 213.006.  See also the Handbook for Election Judges and Clerks (pp. 75-83). 

State Has Audit Laws
Yes
Revision Notes

This information was updated 10/31/2020 using the Texas Statutes-Election Code current through the current through the 86th Legislature, 2019.