Colorado Recount Laws

This information was updated in July 2018 and posted to this website Oct. 15, 2018.

Note: The website hosting Colorado's Revised Statutes allows us to link to individual sections. However, the links only work when in a “signed in” state which can be achieved (without needing any actual sign-in credentials) by clicking the “I agree” button on the main entrypoint page.

Voting System Used: 

Mixed paper ballot and DREs with VVPAT

Colorado votes by mail on paper ballots.  The Office of the Colorado Secretary of State lists on their 2018 map of voting equipment a couple of counties that still use DREs with VVPATs. 

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method : 

Mix of hand count and retabulation 

The canvassing board is required to test voting machines before a recount with the test results used to determine whether the ballots are retabulated using the same machines or recounted by hand.  If the test reveals no unexplained discrepancy from a corresponding hand count, then retabulation is used, whereas any unexplained discrepancy results in a hand recount for the ballots that were counted on that machine, resulting in a mix of hand recounting and machine retabulation. Any batches of ballots that were initially counted by hand are also recounted by hand. 8 Code of Colorado Regulations (8 CRR) 1505-1 Rule 10.13.5(a)).

The nature of the test is not clear from the section of statute (C.R.S. 1-10.5-102(3)) and the implementing regulation (8 CCR 1505-1 Rule 10.12.2), which appear to be at odds. The statute calls for the canvass board to “choose at random and test voting devices” using “ballots counted on each such voting device for the candidate race, ballot issue, or ballot question.” Other elements of the statutory language are consistent with the idea that these are the actual ballots from the election; for example there are mentions of “voter-verified paper records” and “voter error.” However, the rule specifies that “if the county re-scans ballots during the recount, the county clerk must test all ballot scanners that will be used” (rather than randomly chosen ones) and that these tests must be done using specially prepared “test decks” (rather than the ballots from the election).

Rule 10.9.2 (8 CCR 1505-1) provides that “a county that has successfully completed a comparison audit under Rule 25.2 and reported no discrepancies in the recount contest need not re-scan ballots during a recount, except [by request of an interested party].” However, “in all cases, the county must re-adjudicate ballot images for voter intent” regarding “every overvote, undervote, blank vote, ambiguous mark, and write-in vote.”

Initiating Mechanisms: 

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated

While election officials can't initiate recounts in Colorado, “the governing body that referred a ballot question or ballot issue to the electorate” may request a recount, even when the vote margin is not close enough to require the recount.  C.R.S. 1-10.5-106(1).

Close Vote Margin Options: 

Less than or equal to 0.5%
Initiated automatically

Colorado uses a method to calculate their close vote margin that differs slightly from many states. The difference in votes received by the apparent winning and runner-up candidates is not divided by the total vote, the total votes cast for the respective office, or the total votes received by the top two candidates. Rather, the difference is divided by the number of votes received by the apparent winning candidate.

The law also clarifies the close vote margin for election contests in which more than one candidate is to be elected. In this case, the margin is calculated by dividing the difference between “the candidate who won the election with the least votes and the candidate who lost the election with the most votes” by the votes cast for “the candidate who won the election with the least votes.” No matter the office and method of calculation, the margin is “less than or equal to 0.5%.” No restrictions are listed regarding the type of election for which the close vote margin applies. C.R.S. 1-10.5-101.  “Political subdivisions” other than the state have the ability to waive the recount requirement for ballot issues and questions they referred to the ballot. C.R.S. 1-10.5-103.

Timing: Recounts for congressional, state, and district offices, state ballot questions, and state ballot issues see C.R.S. 1-10.5-102, Subsections (1) and (2). Recounts for contests and questions under county jurisdiction see C.R.S. 1-10.5-103.  Recounts for nonpartisan elections not coordinated by the county clerk and recorder see C.R.S. 1-10.5-104.

Candidate-Initiated Options : 

Party official may petition for candidate

The rules for initiating a recount are the same for candidates, political parties and designated representatives of ballot measures. C.R.S. 1-10.5-106 (1).  The timing is discussed in Subsection (2)

Voter-Initiated Options: 

N/A

Recounts for issues and questions in Colorado are not requested by voters at large, but only by those who either originally served as designated representatives when the petition for the question or issue was circulated or are “the agent of an issue committee that is required to report contributions” and supported or opposed the question or issue. C.R.S. 1-10.5-106  and C.R.S. 1-40-113.  Such representatives and agents qualify as “interested parties” and may request recounts in accordance with the rules set out for candidate-initiated recounts.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

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

Costs are not determined before the election but determined before the recount by the respective election official with whom the candidate has filed their recount request. The candidate must pay the full amount before the recount begins. All funds are returned to the initiating party if the election results are reversed in their favor, or if they are sufficiently changed such that a close vote margin recount would have been warranted. C.R.S. 1-10.5-106.

Challengers and Observers : 

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

Political parties, candidates, and those sponsoring issues and questions are allowed to have designated “watchers” during the initial counting process, but the statutes do not clarify if such watchers are also allowed during recounts.  C.R.S. 1-7-105,  1-7-106, and 1-7-107. The Secretary of State's regulations, however, clarify that watchers may also be present at recounts.  8 CCR 1505-1 Rule 8.10.2(a)(11). Rule 8.3 also clearly states that political party attorneys are not allowed into counting locations unless formally registered as a watcher. Neither the state statutes or rules specifically grant watchers the ability to challenge ballots. However, Rule 8.16 provides that “Unless the county clerk has established another process, if a watcher disputes a decision made by an election judge or alleges a discrepancy, the watcher must alert the designated watcher contact.” Also, those initiating a recount or who are party to one may challenge the entire process in the appropriate district court. C.R.S. 1-10.5-109. We found no statute requiring that the recount be conducted publicly, though 8 CCR 1505-1, Rule 8.18 provides that “Media Observers may witness all election activities.” 

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Statutory guidance provided

Colorado provides some guidance on interpreting the validity of improperly made voter marks in C.R.S. 1-7-309 and C.R.S. 1-7-508 as well as in Rule 18 of 8 CCR 1505-1.

State Has Audit Laws: 
Yes
Revision Notes: 

This information was updated July 2018 using Colorado Revised Statutes, current at the time of review through all laws passed and signed in the First Regular and First Extraordinary Sessions of the 71st General Assembly (2017).  In addition, the update references the Code of Colorado Regulations, published on website of the Office of the Colorado Secretary of State.