District of Columbia Recount Laws

This information was updated October 4, 2018. 

Voting System Used: 

Paper ballot

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method : 

Mix of hand count and retabulation

Paper ballots are rescanned for the recount. Any ballots that are not machine readable will be tabulated manually.  District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR), Title 3, Section 3-816.7.   However, the Board of Elections and Ethics may order a recount of  ballots by hand when there is evidence of machine miscount or malfunction, when it is necessary to "ascertain correct vote totals,” or when a recount petition is filed and “it appears that a disproportionate number of potential undervotes or overvotes have occurred in a particular precinct, or to determine whether write-in votes have been cast that affect vote totals for candidates whose names are pre-printed on the ballot.” DCMR 3-810.1.

Initiating Mechanisms: 

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

Court-ordered
 

Court-Ordered Recounts:
Court-ordered and voter-initiated recounts are not entirely separate processes. For a court to order a recount, a voter must first file for a review of the election results with the DC Court of Appeals. More details can be found below under Voter-Initiated Options.  District of Colombia Code (DC Code), Section 1-1001.11(b).

Timing: Recount requests must be made within seven days after the certification of the election results. DC Code § 1-1001.11(b)(1)

Audit initiated:
Under certain circumstances, a post-election audit can escalate to a full recount of all precincts and centrally tabulated ballots. DC Code § 1-1001.09a(h).

Timing: Prior to the certification of the official election results, the Board shall publish and make available for inspection the results of the manual audit. DC Code § 1-1001.09a(j).

Election official-initiated:
The Board of Elections and Ethics may order a recount of  ballots by hand when there is evidence of machine miscount or malfunction, when it is necessary to "ascertain correct vote totals,” or when a recount petition is filed and “it appears that a disproportionate number of potential undervotes or overvotes have occurred in a particular precinct, or to determine whether write-in votes have been cast that affect vote totals for candidates whose names are pre-printed on the ballot.” DCMR 3-810.1.

Timing:  The Board shall direct that the tabulation be conducted at a time that is practicable. DMCR 3-810.2.

Close Vote Margin Options: 

Less than or equal to 1%
Initiated automatically

Recounts are initiated automatically by a close vote margin for initiatives, referendums, recall measures, and “any election for President and Vice President of the United States, Delegate to the House of Representatives, Chairman of the Council, member of the Council, Mayor, Attorney General, or member of the State Board of Education.” The margin of victory must be “less than one percent of the total votes cast” for the office, initiative, referendum, or recall.  DC Code § 1-1001.11(a)(2) and (a)(3).

Timing: We found no timing requirements for the recount to begin or be finished in the DC  Code or the DC Municipal Regulations. However, candidates for which the election is being recounted must be informed by the Board within two days following the decision to have the recount and public notice “shall be posted on the Board’s website at least 24 hours” before the recount begins.  DCMR 816.4.

Candidate-Initiated Options : 

Candidate determines how many/which precincts to recount

Any candidate may file for a recount with the Board of Elections and Ethics. No restrictions are listed regarding the type of election in which a recount may be requested or limiting the eligibility of certain offices for a recount. DC Code § 1-1001.11(a)(1).

Timing: Recount requests must be made within seven days after the certification of the election results. DC Code § 1-1001.11(a)(1).  However, candidates for which the election is being recounted must be informed by the board within two days following the decision to have the recount while public notice of the recount “shall be posted on the Board’s website at least 24 hours” before the recount begins.  DCMR 816.4.

Voter-Initiated Options: 

Voters may request recounts for offices
Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions

Any person  who voted in an election may file with the DC Court of Appeals to review the election results for an office, initiative, referendum, or recall election.   As part of the review process, the Court may rule that a recount is necessary and order that the ballots be recounted. DC Code § 1-1001.11(b).

Timing: Requests for reviews must be filed within seven days after the certification of the election results. However, candidates for which the election is being recounted must be informed by the board within two days following the decision to have the recount while public notice of the recount “shall be posted on the Board’s website at least 24 hours” before the recount begins. There does not appear to be a provision for organizations connected to initiatives to be informed of the timing of the recount. DCMR 816.4.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

Initiator pays set or per jurisdiction fee
Initiator must pay deposit or bond before recount
Payer of costs depends on outcome of recount

Candidates must pay a $50 deposit for each precinct included in the recount. The entire deposit is refunded if the result of the election is changed as a result of the recount. If the result of the election is not changed, the petitioning candidate is liable for the actual cost of the recount.  DC Code § 1-1001.11(a)(1).

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts: 

Payer of costs depends on outcome of recount

The voter requesting a review is not required to pay a specific deposit or fee for the recount, though they are liable for court costs. In addition, the Court can “require the losing party to reimburse the prevailing party for reasonable attorneys' fees and other costs associated with the case, but shall not exercise this authority if it finds that the reimbursement would impose an undue financial hardship on the losing party.”  DC Code § 1-1001.11(b)(5).

Challengers and Observers : 

Statutes specify that recount must be public
Party/candidate or initiator has statutory authority to appoint observers
Party/candidate or initiator has statutory authority to appoint challengers

Statutes specify that the Board of Election and Ethics shall ensure that each candidate for an office subject to a recount may designate watchers to be present while the recount is conducted, or in the case of an initiative, referendum, or recall measure, ensure that members of the public may be present while the recount is conducted.  DC Code § 1-1001.11(a)(4)(C). In addition, DCMR 3-816.5 specifies that “candidates, or organizational group in support of or opposition to a ballot question no more than two (2) poll watchers at all phases of the recount, regardless of whether the candidate properly applied for poll watcher credentials pursuant to § 706. Candidates may also observe all phases of the recount in addition to their assigned poll watchers.” Rules also specify that, space permitting, members of the public shall also be given access to the place where the recount will occur. DCMR 3-816.6 and DCMR 3-706.

Observers and poll watchers may challenge ballots. “Any poll watcher or election observer who is uncertain whether a ballot is partially or totally invalid may refer the ballot to the Executive Director, or his or her designee, for a determination.” DCMR 3-802.3

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Statutory guidance provided

Rules for determining voter intent are provided in DCMR 3-803. 

State Has Audit Laws: 
Yes
Revision Notes: 

This information was updated 10/4/18 using the District of Columbia Code (D.C. Code) current through Sept. 1, 2018 and the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR) updated through 9/13/17.