Nebraska Recount Laws

This information was updated May 5th, 2016 using the Nebraska Revised Statutes (Neb. Rev. Stat.)

Voting System Used: 

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

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method : 

Mix of hand count and retabulation

In the case of most recounts, Nebraska statutes require that recounts be conducted using the same procedures “as those used for the counting of ballots on election day,” and further specifies that where “vote counting devices” (that is, optical scanners) were used on election day, the counting may take place where the voting devices are stored. Neb. Rev. Stat. Sections 32-1119(6) and 32-1121.  As all jurisdictions in Nebraska currently use optical scan voting machines, this means that ballots are retabulated by machine: “[c]ounties counting ballots by using a vote counting device shall first recount the ballots by use of the device,” provided that if “substantial changes are found” during a retabulation, “the ballots shall then be counted using such device in any precinct which might reflect a substantial change.” Neb. Rev. Stat. Section 32-1119(6). 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. Section 32-1118(3).

Initiating Mechanisms: 

Close vote margin

Close Vote Margin Options: 

Varies by number of votes cast
Initiated automatically

A close vote margin may initiate a recount for both primary and general elections. Nebraska uses a method to calculate their close vote margin that differs slightly from many states. The difference in votes received by the apparent winning and runner-up candidates is not divided by the total vote, the total votes cast for the respective office, or the total votes received by the top two candidates. Rather, the difference is divided by the number of votes received by the apparent winning candidate. This lessens the probability of a close vote margin recount in Nebraska with respect to states that have otherwise similar close vote margin requirements.

There are two different close vote margin requirements for candidates. For those contests 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 those in which five hundred or less votes are cast, the margin is “two percent or less of the votes received by the candidate who received the highest number of votes.” Neb. Rev. Stat. Section 32-1119(1).  Recounts take place automatically in such instances, unless the losing candidate waives his or her right to have the recount conducted.  Neb. Rev. Stat. 32-1119(1); see also Neb. Rev. Stat. Sections 32-1119(2) – (5). There is no mention made of a close vote margin for ballot questions or initiatives.

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. Sections 32-1122(1) – (3) and (5).  However, for Governor and other offices in executive departments, the Legislature chooses the winner. Neb. Rev. Stat. Section 32-1122(4).

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

Candidate-Initiated Options : 

Any apparently defeated andidate in a primary or general election in which the margin of victory exceeds the margin would result in an automatic recount on close vote may petition for a recount. Neb. Rev. Stat. Section 32-1121, as well as any apparently defeated candidate for the Legislature. Neb. Rev. Stat. Section 32-1118.    

Timing: For candidates for the Legislature, see Neb. Rev. Stat. Sections 32-1118(1) and (4). For all other candidates, see Neb. Rev. Stat. Section 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 after the candidate files, and in the case of recounts to be conducted in more than one county, certifies the estimated cost to the Secretary of State.  Neb. Rev. Stat. Section 32-1121.  The petitioning candidate must pay the costs before the recount is scheduled to begin. If the candidate initiating the recount is determined to be the winner of the election, all costs paid will be refunded. Neb. Rev. Stat. Section 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 the recount fails to change the results of the election.”  Neb. Rev. Stat. Section 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 close vote, the statute provides that “[c]andidates whose ballots will be recounted may be present or be represented by an agent appointed by the candidate.” Neb. Rev. Stat. Section 32-1119(5).  The provisions governing Legislative recounts and recounts initiated by candidates are silent on the subject of who may be present for the recount.  See Neb. Rev. Stat. Sections 32-1118 and 32-1121.

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: 

No statutory guidance provided

While Nebraska has no laws that specifically discuss voter intent, there are a number of statutes that define what kind of marks constitute a valid vote. See for instance Neb. Rev. Stat. Section 32-901, pertaining to authorized methods for marking a ballot, and Neb. Rev. Stat. Sections 32-1003 and 32-1004, pertaining to the processing of ballots containing undervotes and overvotes.  In addition, the statutes provide that “[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. Section 32-1015.

State Has Audit Laws: