Maryland Recount Laws

This information was updated 6/2/2020

The Maryland Election Law Code is available online at: www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/mdcode/

Voting System Used: 

Paper Ballot (hand marked paper ballots, ballot marking devices for accessibility)

For more details, visit Verified Voting.  

Counting Method : 

Counting method chosen by initiator

The Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) states that for votes cast on optical scan ballots, the recount initiator must specify the counting method to be used. The methods available include a poll tape review, an electronic retabulation, a manual count of the ballots and “any other recount option approved by the State Administrator.”  COMAR 33.12.05.02.   

The "procedure for recounting absentee and provisional ballots shall be the same as for recounting other ballots.” COMAR 33.12.04.03(A)(1).

Initiating Mechanisms: 

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated

Close Vote Margin Options: 

Less than or equal to 0.1%.
Initiated by request

Any candidate or voter can request a taxpayer-funded recount when the margin is 0.1% or less.  See the candidate-initiated and voter-intiated options below.

Candidate-Initiated Options : 

Candidate determines how many/which precincts to recount

Any candidate defeated in an election for public or party office may petition for a recount and shall specify in the petition whether the recount shall be conducted “in all of the precincts in which the office was on the ballot” or “only in the precincts designated in the petition.” Maryland Election Law Code (MD Elec. Law  Code), Title 12, Subtitle 1, Section 12-101(b). The petitioner is not liable for the costs of the recount if the "margin of difference in the number of votes received by an apparent winner and the losing candidate with the highest number of votes for an office is 0.1% or less of the total votes cast for those candidates."  See MD Elec. Law Code 12-107.  If the petitioner does not specify all precincts in which the office was on the ballot, and, “on completion of the recount, the winner of the election is changed,” a counterpetition may be filed by an opposing candidate to request “a recount of the votes for the office in the precincts not specified by the petitioner.” MD Elec. Law Code Section 12-102.

Timing: MD Elec. Law Code Sections 12-101(d) and 12-102(d). See also COMAR 33.12.02.09 and 33.12.02.10.

Voter-Initiated Options: 

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

Any registered voter may petition for a recount for a ballot question for which the voter was eligible to vote. The petitioner may specify whether all or only some precincts are to be recounted. MD Elec. Law Code Section 12-103(b).

If not all precincts are requested to be recounted in the original petition, and, on completion of the partial recount the outcome of the election is changed, a counterpetition may be filed requesting that the remaining precincts also be recounted. MD Elec. Law Code Sections 12-104(a) and (b).  The petitioner is not liable for the costs of the recount if the "margin of difference in the number of votes received by an apparent winner and the losing candidate with the highest number of votes for an office is 0.1% or less of the total votes cast for those candidates."  MD Elec. Law Code 12-107.

Timing: MD Elec. Law Code Sections 12-103(d) and 12-104(d).  See also COMAR 33.12.02.09 and 33.12.02.10.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

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

A bond is set by a judge after the recount petition is filed, and it must be sufficient to pay the reasonable costs of the recount. MD Elec. Law Code Section 12-105.  The petitioner will not be liable for the costs of the recount if (1) the recount, changes the outcome of the election, (2) the recount results in a gain of “2% or more of the total votes cast for the office” in favor of the requesting candidate, or (3) if the "margin of difference in the number of votes received by an apparent winner and the losing candidate with the highest number of votes for an office is 0.1% or less of the total votes cast for those candidates."  Under those four circumstances, the costs of the recount are paid by the county.  MD Elec. Law Code Section 12-107.

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts: 

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

A bond is set by a judge after the recount petition is filed, and it must be sufficient to pay the reasonable costs of the recount. MD Elec. Law Code Section 12-105.  MD Elec. Law Code Section 12-105.  The petitioner will not be liable for the costs of the recount if (1) the recount, changes the outcome of the election, (2) the recount results in a gain of “2% or more of the total votes cast for the office” in favor of the requesting candidate, or (3) if the "margin of difference in the number of votes received by an apparent winner and the losing candidate with the highest number of votes for an office is 0.1% or less of the total votes cast for those candidates."   Under those four circumstances, the costs of the recount are paid by the county.  MD Elec. Law Code Section 12-107.

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

Election officials are required to “ensure the public’s ability to be present while the recount is conducted.” MD Elec. Law Code Section 12-106(a)(2). The Code of Maryland Regulations requires that “any person with standing to file a petition for the recount being conducted, even if that person was not the one who filed the actual petition,” may make a challenge “to any part of the recount.” COMAR 33.12.07.01 The Code also specifies that “[e]very recount shall be conducted publicly, open to candidates and their representatives, other parties to the recount, the media, and the general public.” COMAR 33.12.03.02.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Secretary of State or Election Board responsible for defining intent

See COMAR 33.16.06.02 for rules for interpreting voter intent, and COMAR 33.16.06.03 for rules for write-in votes. 

When ballots are being manually counted, election officials are required to first “evaluate the ballots to ensure that they are valid in accordance with recount procedures established by the State Board” and then, if “a team does not agree or cannot decide on the validity of a ballot or vote, the team shall refer the ballot to the election director, who shall submit it to the board for determination.” COMAR 33.12.05.04(E).  Similar requirements are not explicitly provided for when ballots are being retabulated electronically, COMAR 33.12.05.03.  For regulations governing determination of voter intent for absentee ballots during the canvassing process, see COMAR 33.11.04.07.

State Has Audit Laws: 
Yes

See MD Elec. Law Code 11-309 and COMAR 33.08.05.

Revision Notes: 

This information was updated 6/2/2020 using the Annotated Code of Maryland available at LexisNexis and current to changes received through chapter 18 of the 2020 session.  The Code of Maryland Regulations was viewed 61/2020, and these regulations were "effective to date."