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 7/15/2018.

Voting System Used

Mixed paper ballot and DREs with VVPAT

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

 According to the Elections Division of the Office of the Utah Lieutenant Governor, 27 of 29 Utah counties use paper ballots and hold vote-by-mail elections. 

Counting Method

Recount procedures specify that the election officer shall recount all ballots for that race and that "unopened absentee ballots" be reexamined to ensure compliance with statutory provisions governing voting by absentee ballot. UT Code 20A-4-401(1)(e) and (2)(d).

Section R623-2-4(H) of the Utah Administrative Code provides recount procedures for the retabulation of optical scan ballots.

According to the Elections Division of Utah's Office of the Lieutenant Governor, ballots are generally recounted using the same method of counting as used on election day.  For paper ballots, this would normally involve retabulating the ballots by voting machne.  For DREs with VVPATs this would normally involve an electronic review that retabulates the results from DRE memory cards.  At the discretion of election officials, and by practice only in rare circumstances, the optical scan ballots or the DRE journal tapes may be hand counted.  In addition to the post-election audit that is routinely conducted in Utah after the election, there is another audit after the recount involving the hand counting of ballots or journal tapes for at least one voting machine in each county where the recounted race occurred.  

Initiating Mechanisms

Close-vote margin
Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated

Close Vote Margin Options

Less than or equal to 0.25%
Vote count difference (not percentage-based)
Initiated by request

A close-vote-margin recount in Utah requires a request from voters or candidates.  See the candidate-initiated and voter-initiated options below.

The statute authorizing the Municipal Alternate Voting Methods Pilot Project contains a separate set of close-vote-margin requirements for instant runoff elections. UT Code 20A-4-603.

Candidate-Initiated Options

Close vote margin required

Candidates may file a request for a recount “if the difference between the number of votes cast for a winning candidate in the race and a losing candidate in the race is equal to or less than 0.25% of the total number of votes cast for all candidates in the race, that losing candidate may file a request for a recount.” See UT Code 20A-4-401(1)(b).

“For a race between candidates where the total of all votes cast in the race is 400 or less, if the difference between the number of votes cast for a winning candidate in the race and a losing candidate in the race is one vote, that losing candidate may file a request for a recount.” See UT Code 20A-4-401(1)(c)

Timing: See UT Code 20A-4-401(1)(d)(i) and (d)(ii).

Voter-Initiated Options

Close-vote-margin required
Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions

For a ballot proposition or a bond proposition, if the proposition passes or fails by a margin that is equal to or less than 0.25% of the total votes cast for or against the proposition, any 10 voters who voted in the election where the proposition was on the ballot may file a request for a recount. UT Code 20A-4-401(2)(a).

“[F]or a ballot proposition or a bond proposition where the total of all votes cast for or against the proposition is 400 or less, if the difference between the number of votes cast for the proposition and the number of votes cast against the proposition is one vote, any 10 voters who voted in the election where the proposition was on the ballot may file a request for a recount….”  UT Code 20A-4-401(2)(b).

Timing: UT Code 20A-4-401(2)(a) and (b).

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts

Paid entirely by state or county

Costs incurred for close-vote-margin recounts may not be assessed against the person requesting the recount.  See UT Code 20A-4-401(3).

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts

Paid entirely by initiator

Voters requesting a recount for propositions are required to cover all costs associated with the recount. UT Code 20A-4-401(2)(f).

Challengers and Observers

Statutes specify that recounts must be public
Party/candidate or initiator has statutory authority to appoint observers
No statutory guidance for recount challengers

For a recount of a ballot proposition or a bond proposition, "proponents and opponents of the ballot proposition or bond proposition may designate representatives to witness the recount." See UT Code 20A-4-401(2)(e).

Any individual may become a watcher in an election at any time by registering as a watcher with the administering election officer.  Watchers may observe recounts.  UT Code 20A-3-201(2)(a) and (4)(m).

UT Code 20A-4-303 requires the public opening of ballots and determination of votes during the canvass, and the statute applies this same public procedure to recounts. 

According to the Elections Division of Utah's Office of the Lieutenant Governor, recounts are open to the public. 

Rules for Determining Voter Intent

Statutory guidance provided

See UT Code 20A-4-105 for the standards for evaluating voter's ballot choices. See also the Utah Administrative Code, R623-2, "Uniform Ballot Counting Standards."

For instant runoff elections, see UT Code 20A-4-603(3).

State Has Audit Laws
Yes
Revision Notes

This information was updated 7/15/2018 using the Utah Code that includes amendments to election law enacted by Chapter 187 of the 2018 General Session.