Alaska Recount Laws

This information was updated September 27, 2018.

Voting System Used: 

Mixed paper ballot and DREs with VVPAT

According to the Media Packet issued by the Division of Elections for the 2018 primary election, Alaska uses three methods to count ballots at the precinct level: hand-count (137 precincts), optical scaners (304 precincts), and touch screen with VVPAT.  Nintey-nine percent of all voters in Alaska cast a paper ballot. The touch screen voting units are used by one percent of the voters.  Media Packet, page 24. 

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method : 

Required hand count of a sample of ballots in addition to other counting methods
Mix of hand count, retabulation and electronic review

For votes cast on direct-recording electronic machines, (DREs), the voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) is the official ballot during a recount and must be counted by hand. If the VVPAT is not “available” or “readable,” an electronic review is conducted. See the Alaska Administrative Code, Title 6 (6 AAC), Chapter 25, Article 1, Rule 25.200.  This rule also states that a recount may be conducted by retabulation as long as it includes a sample hand-count verification of the recount results from one precinct per house district; however, all ballots are reviewed by hand.  "In conducting the recount, the director shall review all ballots...to determine which ballots, or part of ballots, were properly marked and which ballots are to be counted in the recount, and shall check the accuracy of the original count, the precinct certificate, and the review."  2017 Alaska Statutes (AS), Section 15.20.480

Initiating Mechanisms: 

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated

Close Vote Margin Options: 

Initiated automatically (for tie votes)
Initiated by request (for candidate and voter requested recounts)

A tie vote is the only vote margin that automatically initiates a recount in Alaska. AS § 15.15.460.  If after a recount and appeal the candidates have been determined to have the same number of votes for office, the winner will be selected by lot. AS § 15.20.530.

See the cost sections for Candidate and Voter-initiated recounts below for a description of the close-vote-margin recounts available by request. 

Timing: In the case of a tie vote, the Director of Elections is required to “immediately proceed with the recount. AS § 15.15.460.

Candidate-Initiated Options : 

Candidate determines how many/which precincts to recount

Any defeated candidate may request a recount. There are no restrictions on the type of election in which a recount may be requested or limiting the eligibility of certain offices for a recount.  Note the different filing deadlines. The deadline for the offices of governor and lieutenant governor is within three days after the completion of the review. The deadline for other candidates is within five days after the completion of the review.  AS § 15.20.430.  The recount application must state “in substance the basis of the belief that a mistake has been made” and state the particular election precinct or house district for which the recount is to be held as well as the particular office for which the recount is to be held. AS § 15.20.440.

Timing: AS § 15.20.430, 15.20.460, and 15.20.480.

Voter-Initiated Options: 

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

Voters may request a recount for propositions, ballot questions and offices, but a minimum of ten qualified voters is needed to make the request within five days after the completion of the state review.  There are no restrictions on the type of election in which a recount may be requested or limiting the eligibility of certain offices for a recount. AS § 15.20.430. The recount application must state “in substance the basis of the belief that a mistake has been made” and state the particular election precinct or house district for which the recount is to be held as well as the particular office, proposition, or question for which the recount is to be held.  AS § 15.20.440.

Timing:  AS § 15.20.43015.20.460 and 15.20.480

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
 

The initiator must pay a deposit of $1,000 for each precinct, $2,000 for each house district, or $15,000 for the entire state. The cost is paid entirely by the initiator unless the vote total changes by four percent or more in favor of the initiator, or if the recount changes the outcome of the election, in which case the deposit will be refunded. For both candidates and propositions, a deposit is not required if there is a tie vote, or if the difference between the toal number number of votes cast for each candidate or the total votes cast in favor of or opposed to the issue is less than 20 total votes or less than 0.5% of the total votes cast. AS § 15.20.450.

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

The initiator must pay a deposit of $1,000 for each precinct, $2,000 for each house district, or $15,000 for the entire state. The cost is paid entirely by the initiator, unless the vote total changes by four percent or more in favor of the initiator, or if the recount changes the outcome of the election, in which case the deposit will be refunded.  For both candidates and propositions, a deposit is not required if there is a tie vote, or if the difference between the toal number number of votes cast for each candidate or the total votes cast in favor of or opposed to a ballot issue is less than 20 total votes or less than 0.5% of the total votes cast. AS § 15.20.450.

Challengers and Observers : 

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

While AS § 15.20.470 mandates notification of candidates, initiators, their representatives, and “other directly interested parties,” it does not mandate notifying the public. We did not find any statute requiring that the recount be conducted publicly.

AS § 15.20.440 allows recount initiators two representatives, one of whom may be the initiator, to “be present and assist during the recount.” Subsection (b) also allows for observers for "candidates, political parties, or organized groups having a direct interest in a recount.” There is no mention made of these observers having the ability to challenge ballots.  However, AS § 15.20.480 suggests that challenges to ballot interpretations do happen. It states that the “rules in AS 15.15.360 governing the counting of ballots shall be followed in the recount when a ballot is challenged on the basis of a question regarding the voter’s intent to vote for the candidate, proposition, or question.” In addition, the Recount Handbook, published by the Alaska Division of Elections, states that the “Director of the Division of Elections is the final authority at the recount. If any candidate or representative disagrees with the determination made by the Director, the ballot is placed in a separate envelope with the name of the challenger, the ballot’s district and/or precinct number, and the name of the candidate for which the ballot was counted written on the outside.”

Finally, according to 6 AAC 25.200, “all recounts will be conducted in the director’s office or at another site in Juneau, selected by the director.” 

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Statutory guidance provided

Alaska statute provides a detailed set of rules for interpreting voter intent. AS § 15.15.360.  See also the pictoral examples for interpreting voter intent on page 9 in the Recount Manual

State Has Audit Laws: 
Yes
Revision Notes: 

This information was updated September 27, 2018 using Alaska Administrative Code including changes received by the publisher through June 15, 2018, and using the 2017 Alaska Statutes.