Nebraska Recount Laws

This information was updated 4/20/2020.

Voting System Used: 

Paper ballot (optical scanners, hand counted paper ballots, or a mix)

Approximately 12 counties vote by mail.
For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method : 

Mix of hand count and retabulation

Nebraska requires that most recounts be conducted using the same procedures “as those used for the counting of ballots on election day,” and that where vote counting devices (optical scanners) were used on election day, the counting may take place where the voting devices are stored. See Nebraska Revised statutes (Neb. Rev. Stat.) §§ 32-1119(6) & 32-1121.  All counties in Nebraska currently use optical scan voting equipment, and consequently, ballots are retabulated by machine.

In the case of recounts for Legislative offices, the counting procedure is not specified: “[a]fter the ballot boxes have been received at the designated office, they shall be opened and the ballots for member of the Legislature shall be recounted under the supervision of the Secretary of State.” Neb. Rev. Stat. § 32-1118(3).

Initiating Mechanisms: 

Election official initiated
Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated

Election Official Initiated
“If in the process of canvassing the votes for any candidate or measure in any precinct the election commissioner or county clerk or the canvassing board determines that there is an obvious error in the certification of the votes, the error shall be corrected. The county canvassing board may open the ballots-cast container and recount the ballots for any candidate or any measure which appears to be in error.”  Neb. Rev. Stat. § 32-1031(1).

Close Vote Margin Options: 

Varies by number of votes cast
Initiated automatically

A close-vote margin may initiate an automatic, taxpayer-funded recount for both primary and general elections. There are two different close vote margin requirements for candidates. For any candidate that fails to be nominated or elected in elections in which more than five hundred votes are cast, the margin is “one percent or less of the votes received by the candidate who received the highest number of votes for the office.”  For elections in which five hundred or fewer votes are cast, the margin is “two percent or less of the votes received by the candidate who received the highest number of votes.”  Recounts take place automatically unless the losing candidate waives his or her right to have the recount conducted.  Neb. Rev. Stat.§ 32-1119(1).  There are no automatic recounts for ballot questions.

Additionally, Nebraska has specific provisions should a recount (either automatic or candidate-initiated) end in a tie. For most offices, the winner is chosen by lot.  Neb. Rev. Stat. § 32-1122.  However, for Governor and other offices in executive departments, the Legislature chooses the winner in a tie. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 32-1122(4).

Timing: Neb. Rev. Stat.§ Section 32-1119(3) & (4)

Candidate-Initiated Options : 

Any apparently defeated candidate may petition for a recount in a primary or general election in which the margin of victory exceeds the margin that would result in an automatic recount on close vote. Neb. Rev. Stat. §§  32-1121 & 32-1118.    

Timing: For candidates for the Legislature, see Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 32-1118(1) & (4). For all other candidates, see Neb. Rev. Stat. § 32-1121.   

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

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

The Election Commissioner or County Clerk determines an estimate of the recount costs, and in the case of recounts to be conducted in more than one county, certifies the estimated cost to the Secretary of State.  The petitioning candidate must pay the costs before the recount is scheduled to begin. If after the recount, the petitioner is determined to be the winner of the election, all costs paid will be refunded. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 32-1121

In the case of recounts for Legislative office, the recount petition is required to be “accompanied by a corporate surety bond in the penal sum of two thousand five hundred dollars conditioned for the payment of costs ...."  If it becomes apparent during the recount that the initial bond is inadequate to cover the costs, the Secretary of State may order an increase in the amount of the bond.  If the recount changes the outcome of the election, the bond is refunded.  Neb. Rev. Stat. § 32-1118(1)

Challengers and Observers : 

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

In the case of automatic recounts on a close vote and most candidate initated recounts, candidates whose ballots will be recounted may be present or be represented by an agent appointed by the candidate. Neb. Rev. Stat.§ 32-1119(5).  The statute governing Legislative recounts is silent on the subject of who may be present for the recount.  Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 32-1118.

Although the statutes do not require that the public be allowed to observe recounts, according to the Office of the Nebraska Secretary of State, local election officials may, at their discretion, allow public observers and set limitations on their proximity to the ballots.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Statutory guidance provided

The following statutes briefly define what constitutes a valid vote: Neb. Rev. Stat. § 32-901, pertaining to authorized methods for marking a ballot; and Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 32-1003 & 32-1004, pertaining to the processing of ballots containing undervotes and overvotes. 

In addition, “[a]ny issue as to the legality of a vote shall be resolved unanimously by the [ballot counting] resolution board. If a unanimous decision cannot be obtained, the ballot shall be rejected as to the vote in question.” Neb. Rev. Stat. § 32-1015.

State Has Audit Laws: 
No
Revision Notes: 

This information was updated on 4/20/2020 using the Nebraska Revised Statutes current to July 18, 2019.  There were no relevant administrative rules for recounts.