Alabama Recount Laws

This information was updated 1/30/2020.

Voting System Used: 

Paper ballot (optical scanners)

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method : 

Retabulation only

Alabama uses only paper ballots cast on optical scan voting machines. For recounts, ballots are to be retabulated by machine; however, the law allows for ballots rejected by automatic tabulators to be inspected and recounted by hand. See the Code of Alabama (AL Code) § 17-16-20 (h). See also the Administrative Code which specifies that “any ballot returned by the machine in a post-election recount must be counted by hand….” 820-2-10-.17(6)(c).

Initiating Mechanisms: 

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated

Close Vote Margin Options: 

Less than or equal to 0.5%
Initiated automatically

When in a general election a candidate or any statewide ballot measure is defeated by not more than 0.5% of the votes cast for the office or the measure, a recount is automatically held. However, the apparent defeated candidate may file to waive the recount. AL Code § 17-16-20(a) & (d).

“If a recount is conducted pursuant to subsection (a), the appropriate canvassing board or authority shall amend the initial certification of the election to reflect the results of the recount.” AL Code § 17-16-20(e). However, for elections for office, if the recount changes the winner to someone "other than the person initially certified, the outcome shall constitute grounds for an election contest as now prescribed by law.” AL Code § 17-16-20(j).

Note that according to the Office of the Alabama Attorney General (opinion dated June 8, 2010 ), “the automatic recount provisions of 17-16-20 are not applicable in a primary election….”

Timing: AL Code § 17-16-20(a), (b), (e) and (g).

Candidate-Initiated Options : 

Candidate determines how many/which precincts to recount
Specific offices only
 

Any person with standing to contest a primary or general election may with proper cause petition the canvassing authority for a recount of any or all precinct returns. AL Code § 17-16-21(a) and 11-46-55.1. The offices for which a recount may be requested are listed in Section 17-16-40 and do not include federal offices.

If the results of the recount indicate a change in the outcome of the election, the only way to alter the official results is to initiate an election contest.  AL Code § 17-16-21(d)

Timing: AL Code § 17-16-21(a) and 11-46-55.1.

Voter-Initiated Options: 

Voters detemine how many/which precincts to recount
Voters may request recounts for offices

Any person, including qualified electors, with standing to contest a primary or general election may with proper cause petition the canvassing authority for a recount. Voters may request recounts for a limited number of offices but not for ballot measures.  The petitioner ”may petition the canvassing authority for a recount of any or all precinct returns.” AL Code § 17-16-21(a), 17-16-4017-16-47. & 11-46-55.1.

If the results of the recount indicate a change in the outcome of the election, the only way to alter the official results is to initiate an election contest.  AL Code § 17-16-21(d)

Timing: AL Code § 17-16-21(a) & 11-46-55.1.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount
Payer of costs depends on outcome of recount

Recount petitioners must pay a security deposit before the recount begins, the amount of which is based upon an estimate of the actual costs made by the election authority. AL Code § 17-16-21(a).  If the recount changes the result, the petitioner has grounds for an election contest; “If the recount of the resulting contest alters the result of the election, the cost of the recount shall be borne by the county.” AL Code § 17-16-21(d).  Security deposits are also required when filing for election contests. See AL Code § 17-16-46 (requiring a deposit or bond to cover the costs of examining ballots and voting machines) and 17-16-49 (requiring deposit of security for the costs of the contest).

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts: 

Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount
Payer of costs depends on outcome of recount

Recount petitioners must pay a security deposit before the recount begins, the amount of which is based upon an estimate of the actual costs made by the election authority. AL Code § 17-16-21(a).  If the recount changes the result, the petitioner has grounds for an election contest and if "the resulting contest alters the result of the election, the cost of the recount shall be borne by the county.” AL Code § 17-16-21(d).  Security deposits are also required when filing for election contests. See AL Code § 17-16-46 (requiring a deposit or bond to cover the costs of examining ballots and voting machines) and 17-16-49 (requiring deposit of security for the costs of the contest).

Challengers and Observers : 

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

AL Code §§ 17-16-20(g) and (h), 17-16-21(a) and (b)  and 11.46.55.1 allow for “representatives of opposing interests . . . to participate in the recount” and to observe and to challenge those ballots counted by hand. The statute allows only for the challenging of hand-counted ballots, and not for those retabulated by machine (See the Counting Method section above.) Alabama statutes do not require that recounts be conducted publicly.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Statutory guidance provided

The statutory guidance provided for determining voter intent in Alabama states that "if the elector has marked more names than there are persons to be elected to an office, or if for any reason it is impossible to determine the elector's choice for any office to be filled, the ballot shall not be counted for such office;" however, it also states that no ballot shall be “rejected for any technical error which does not make it impossible to determine the elector's choice.” AL Code § 17-12-13.

The Alabama Administrative Code 820-2-10.17(5) states that “When ballots are to be counted by hand, polling officials shall determine the elector’s choice by considering the ballot as a whole and determining the manner in which the elector marked his or her choices on the ballot. Only those choices marked consistently in this manner shall be counted for each office to be filled. As used herein, “marked consistently” pertains to the manner in which the elector expresses his or her choice and not the pattern of candidates selected as between political parties on the ballot. If the polling officials are unable to determine the manner in which an elector marked his or her choices, the ballot shall be rejected in its entirety.” See also Administrative Code 820-2-10-.17(1) and the "Definition of a Vote" in 820-2-1-.02

When representatives of the respective parties involved in the recount do not agree in their reading of a voter's intent as marked on a ballot, an appeal may be made to the canvassing board, which has authority to determine intent. AL Code §17-16-20(h) and 17-16-21(b).

State Has Audit Laws: 
No
Revision Notes: 

This information was updated 1/29/2020 using the unofficial Code of Alabama 1975 (AL Code) available at the website for the Alabama State Legislature. The Rules were viewed at the Aministrative Code website on 1/29/2020.