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 August 31, 2018. 

All references to statutes below can be found in Title 17 of the Vermont Statutes Annotated (17 V.S.A.) available here

Voting System Used

Paper ballot (optical scanners, hand counted paper ballots, or a mix)

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method

Mix of hand count and retabulation
Counting method chosen by initiator  (local elections only and only for retabulation requests) 

Recounts initiated by candidates for primary and general elections are conducted primarily by retabulation.  Ballots are reviewed for markings of voter intent and those ballots that are deemed not readable by the tabulator are hand counted. 17 V.S.A. § 2602e(a) & (b).  The remaining ballots are retabulated. 17 V.S.A. § 2602f

“The same vote tabulator or vote tabulator memory card used in any local, primary, or general elections shall not be used in a recount of that election.”  17 V.S.A. § 2493(c).

For local elections, recounts initiated by candidates are counted in a similar manner as votes were counted on election day.  Under certain conditions, a candidate may request that the recount be conducted by retabulation. 17 V.S.A. § 2685

For local elections, when recounts are initiated by voters the procedures “shall be the same as in the case of recount of the votes cast for a candidate at an election.” 17 V.S.A. § 2688(b).  

Counting procedures for recounts of non-local elections can be found in 17 V.S.A. § 2602a-2602h.  Counting procedures for recounts of local elections can be found in 17 V.S.A. § 2685 and 2685a.

According to the Vermont Office of the Secretary of State, the results of a recount are binding.

Initiating Mechanisms

Election official-initiated 
Close-vote margin
Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated

Election Official-Initiated Recounts:

In the event of a tie vote for elections other than local elections, the canvassing committee shall file a request for a recount following the same guidelines as those for candidates.  17 V.S.A. § 2592(l)

Timing:   17 V.S.A. § 2602(b) and 2602a.

Close Vote Margin Options

Varies by election contest
Initiated by request

Candidates for state, county and local elections, and registered voters (for local ballot questions only) have the right to a taxpayer funded, close-vote-margin recount under the circumstances listed in the candidate-initiated and voter-initiated options below. The initiation of the recount requires the filing of a petition. 

Candidate-Initiated Options

Close vote margin required 

In an election for statewide office, county office, or state senator, if the difference between the number of votes cast for a winning candidate and the number of votes cast for a losing candidate is  two percent or less of the total votes cast for all the candidates for an office, divided by the number of persons to be elected, that losing candidate shall have the right to have the votes for that office recounted.  17 V.S.A. § 2601(a)(1).

In an election for state representative, if the difference between the number of votes cast for a winning candidate and the number of votes cast for a losing candidate is five percent or less of the total votes cast for all the candidates for an office, divided by the number of persons to be elected, that losing candidate shall have the right to have the votes for that office recounted. 17 V.S.A. § 2601(a)(2).

For local elections, if the difference between the number of votes cast for a winning candidate and the number of votes cast for a losing candidate is five percent or less of the total votes cast for all the candidates for an office, divided by the number of persons to be elected, that losing candidate shall have the right to have the votes for that office recounted. 17 V.S.A. § 2683(b).

Timing: For local elections, see 17 V.S.A. § 2683(a) and 2684.  For all other elections, see 17 V.S.A. § 2602(b).

Voter-Initiated Options

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

For local elections, any registered voter, or in the case of a union school district, at least one registered voter from each member of the union district, may request a recount for ballot questions, if the margin by the ballot question passed or failed is less than 5% of the total votes cast on the question. 17 V.S.A. § 2688.  

Timing:  17 V.S.A. § 2688(b).

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts

Paid entirely by state or county

All recount costs are paid by the state. There is no charge to recount petitioners. 17 V.S.A. § 2602i.

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts

Paid entirely by state or county

All recount costs are paid by the state. There is no chage to the petitioners. 17 V.S.A. § 2602i.

Challengers and Observers

Statutes specify that recount must be public
No statutory guidance for recount observers
No statutory guidance for recount challengers

For recounts involving statewide offices, county offices, state senator or state representative, the candidates may not appoint challengers but they may submit a list of a minimum of 10 nominees for individuals to serve on the recount committee which assists in the recount.  In making the appointments to the committee, the Superior Court will appoint to the committee an equal number of persons representing each candidate, to the extent practicable. 17 V.S.A. § 2602a.

For recounts involving local elections, there are no provisions for candidates to appoint individuals to serve on a recount committee. 17 V.S.A. § 2685a.  However, the petitioner, the opposing candidates, and their designated representatives may inspect the ballots and observe the recount under the guidance of the board. 17 V.S.A. § 2685(b)

For recounts on local ballot questions, the petitioner and his or her designated representative and a voter representing the other side of the question voted upon and his or her designated representative may inspect the vote and observe the recount under the guidance of the board of civil authority.  17 V.S.A. § 2688(c).

Recounts are open to the public.  Persons who are not participating in the recount  shall be permitted to view a recount in progress.  17 V.S.A. § 2602c and 2685a(h)(2)

Rules for Determining Voter Intent

Statutory guidance provided 
Secretary of State or Election Board responsible for defining intent

Basic statutory guidelines for voter intent, can be found in 17 V.S.A. § 2587 and in the Code of Vermont Rules 04-010-003.  Rules for determining voter intent are provided by the Secretary of State and are listed in the 2018 Elections Procedures Manual (Appendices K and M).

State Has Audit Laws
Yes
Revision Notes

Links were reviewed for currency, August 2020.

This information was updated August 31, 2018 using the Vermont Statutes (current through all actions of the 2017 legislature) and the Code of Vermont Rules (current through July 18, 2018).