Kentucky Recount Laws

This information was updated October 12, 2020.

Voting System Used: 

Mixed paper ballot and DREs without VVPAT

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

In 2018,the State Board of Elections moved to require that all future election equipment purchased in Kentucky provide a voter-verified paper trail, and they set aside $4.6 million to upgrade electronic voting machines across Kentucky to provide a paper-trail. However, many counties continue to use direct recording equipment without veter verified paper trails. 

Counting Method : 

No statutory guidance provided for counting method

Of Kentucky's 120 counties, approximately 27 counties with a total 14% of all precincts use direct recording equipment without a voter verified paper audit trail. The remaining counties use voting equipment that include paperless DREs or optical scan machines with voter marked paper ballots.  No recount can be conducted on DREs without VVPATs, only an electronic review.  For those votes that are cast on paper ballots, we found no statutory guidance requiring ballots to be recounted by hand or retabulated by machine.

Initiating Mechanisms: 


Election official-initiated

Election Official-Initiated Recounts:
If precinct election officers report to the county clerk errors discovered in the process of conducting the polling or tabulation of votes, the clerk must file an action with the Circuit Court requesting a recount. See the Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) 120.017.

Timing: The county clerk is required to file an action in Circuit Court within 15 days of the election. KRS 120.017(2).

Candidate-Initiated Options : 

Contested election
Specific offices only

For primary elections, any candidate or slate of candidates may request a recount. KRS 120.095. Candidates may also contest a primary election in court, and in their petition to the court they may include a request for a recount. However, in order to contest a primary election, a candidate or slate of candidates must have earned at least 50% “of the votes cast for the successful candidate or slate of candidates for nomination to the office….” KRS 120.055.

For general elections, any candidate or slate of candidates for state, county, district or city office, may request a recount.  Some offices are excluded from this provision including the offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, member of the General Assembly, and those city offices as to which there are other provisions made by law for determining contested elections.  Recounts are handled by the same court that manages election contest proceedings. KRS 120.185 and 120.155.
Candidates may also make a written request for a recanvass. Depending on the voting equipment used on election day, a recanvass may involve an electronic review of DREs or central tabulation systems, a comparison poll tapes from voting machines, or if ballots were hand counted on election day, a manual recounting of those ballots. See the Kentucky Administrative Regulations, Title 31 (31 KAR), Chapter 4, Regulation 070. See also KRS 117.305.

Timing:  KRS 120.095 and 120.185.

Voter-Initiated Options: 

Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions

Any voter “who was qualified to and did vote on any public question other than a constitutional amendment or question of local option under KRS 242” may petition for a recount. The petition must state the grounds for requesting a recount.  KRS 120.250. See  KRS 120.280 for information about and recounts for constitutional conventions, constitutional amendments, and statewide public questions. 

Voters may also request recounts for Kentucky’s “local option” elections. KRS 242.120.

Timing: KRS 120.250 and 242.120.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

Paid entirely by initiator
Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount

Candidates must execute a bond before the recount for all costs associated with the recount and in an amount to be determined by the Circuit Judge. KRS 120.095 and 120.185.

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts: 

Paid entirely by initiator
Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount

For recounts under KRS 120.250, contestants must provide a bond for the costs associated with the recount.  See also the costs for recounts under KRS 120.280.

Challengers and Observers : 

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

For recounts initiated by voters under KRS 120.250, two commissioners are appointed by the court to assist in the recount; one shall represent the contestant and one the contestee. Petitioners may also have an attorney present during the recount proceedings. KRS 120.260

For recounts initiated by voters under KRS 120.280, the attorneys representing the contestant and the Commonwealth's attorney representing the contestee may be present at all hearings on the recount. The contestant and contestee shall each be entitled to appoint one inspector, who shall be allowed to witness the recount. KRS 120.290.

There are no statutes specifying that candidates may appoint observers or challengers to recounts; however, at a recanvass, “each political party represented on the board may appoint a representative there to be its governing body, and also each candidate to be voted for may be present, either in person or by a representative or both.” KRS 117.305.

We found no requirements that recounts be conducted publicly.  

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Statutory guidance provided

The Kentucky Administrative Regulations contain definitions of a valid vote. 31 KAR 6:030.

State Has Audit Laws: 
Revision Notes: 

This page was updated on 10/12/2020 using the Kentucky Revised Statutes (including enactments through the 2020 Regular Session) and the Kentucky Administrative Regulations (updated 10/2/2020).