Michigan Recount Laws

This information was updated March 9, 2020.

The Michigan Compiled Laws (Mich. Comp. Laws) are available here.

Voting System Used: 

Paper ballot (hand marked paper ballots, BMDs for accessibility)

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method : 

Mix of hand count and retabulation
Counting method chosen by election official

Recounts conducted under the supervision of county canvassing boards are conducted using an electronic voting system unless one or more of certain conditions exist. These conditions are specified in statute and include discrepancies in the number of ballots issued and voted and discrepancies relating to the seals on ballot containers and transfer cases.  Mich. Comp. Laws 168.871(1).

Although the default method of counting is retabulation using an electronic voting system, Mich. Comp. Laws 168.871(4) provides boards of canvassers with other options for counting ballots and states that recounts may be conducted by any, or any combination of the following means: a manual tally of the ballots; a tabulation of the ballots on a computer using a software application designed to specifically count only the office or ballot question subject to the recount; or a tabulation of the ballots on a computer using the same software application used in the precinct on election day. 

Any recount conducted under the direction, supervision and control of the state board of canvassers is conducted in the same manner (as far as applicable) as is provided for the conduct of recounts by county boards of canvassers. Mich. Comp. Laws 168.891.

Initiating Mechanisms: 

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated

Close Vote Margin Options: 

Vote count difference (not percentage-based)
Initiated automatically

For statewide offices and ballot measures, a taxpayer funded recount is initiated automatically when the vote differential is 2,000 votes or less, regardless of the number of votes cast in the election.  This requirement applies to statewide primary or general elections, except for partisan offices in which more than one person is elected. Additional exceptions are noted in the Bureau of Elections “Election Recounts” manual (see page 5).  Mich. Comp. Laws 168.880a(1).

Timing: Mich. Comp. Laws 168.880a.

Candidate-Initiated Options : 

Candidate determines how many/which precincts to recount
Party official may petition for candidate

Any candidate at the county, city, township or village level who believes he or she is aggrieved on account of fraud or mistake in the canvass or returns of the votes may apply for a recount of one or multiple precincts. The candidate must be able to “allege a good-faith belief that but for fraud or mistake, the candidate would have had a reasonable chance of winning the election.”  Mich. Comp. Laws 168.862.

A candidate for an office canvassed by the board of state canvassers  including the offices of U.S. Senator or U.S. Representative, or the offices of state representative or senator for a district located wholly within 1 county, may petition for a recount of the votes.  The petition must allege that the candidate is “aggrieved on account of fraud or mistake in the canvass of the votes by the inspectors of election or the returns...” and that the candidate is "able to allege a good-faith belief that but for fraud or mistake, the candidate would have had a reasonable chance of winning the election.”  Mich. Comp. Laws 168.879(1).  Section 168.879 does not apply to presidential primary candidates. Mich. Comp. Laws 168.879a.

For elections for state senators and representatives, party officials may petition for recounts when the  vote margin is 500 votes or less for senatorial contests and 200 votes or less for representative contests.  In these cases the state political party chair may  apply for a recount on behalf of the candidate and need not allege fraud or mistake. Mich. Comp. Laws 168.879(2).

Timing: Mich. Comp. Laws 168.879(1)(c), 168.866(3) and 168.875.

Voter-Initiated Options: 

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

Any qualified and registered elector who alleges fraud or error in the canvass of the votes may request a recount on ballot questions, propositions, or charter and constitutional amendments, at the state, county, city, township, school district, community college district, or village, level. Mich. Comp. Laws 168.880 and 168.863.

Timing: Mich. Comp. Laws 168.880, 168.866(3) and 168.875.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

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

For candidate initiated recounts under the authority of state or county boards of canvassers, the deposit per precinct is determined by the vote margin between the winning candidate and the petitioner.  Mich. Comp. Laws 168.867 and 168.881.

The entire deposit is refunded if the recount reverses the result of the election. Mich. Comp. Laws 168.867(7) and 168.881(7).

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

For voter initiated recounts under the authority of state or county boards of canvassers, the deposit per precinct is determined by the vote margin between the winning candidate and the petitioner.  Mich. Comp. Laws 168.867 and 168.881.

The entire deposit is refunded if the recount reverses the result of the election. Mich. Comp. Laws 168.867(7) and 168.881(7).

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

Recounts are public. Mich. Admin. Code 168.927 and Mich. Comp. Laws 168.889.

Two representatives  and one attorney for each recount initiator are allowed to observe the recount.  Mich. Admin. Code 168.907 and 168.916. The role of these representatives in challenging ballots varies on the counting method used during the recount. During the use of voting machines, they do not have the ability to challenge individual ballots as they are counted, but they are allowed to dictate challenges and objections to the proceedings in the record of the recount, and to argue for these objections to board of canvassers after the recounting is completed. Mich. Admin. Code 168.913 and 168.914.

Where ballots are recounted by hand, candidate and petitioner representatives “shall be afforded an opportunity to observe the opening of ballot boxes and each ballot as the votes are called and to make such notations on their private records as they may desire.” Mich. Admin. Code 168.916.

Any ballot under protest by any interested party’s representative “shall be identified…and be presented to the board of county canvassers for its decision. Representatives of each interested party shall be afforded an opportunity to submit authorities and argument to the board of county canvassers for counting or rejecting each such challenged ballot…."  Mich. Admin. Code 168.925.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Statutory guidance provided

See Mich. Comp. Laws 168.803 for guidelines on interpreting voter intent.  Further details are provided in Mich. Admin. Code 168.923 and 168.924.

State Has Audit Laws: 
No
Revision Notes: 

This information was updated 3/9/2020 using the Michigan Compiled Laws complete through Public Act 32 of 2020. The Michigan Administrative Code was viewed 3/9/2020 on the website of the Michigan Administrative Rulemaking System, Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.