North Carolina Recount Laws

This information was updated 10/7/2020.

Voting System Used: 

Paper Ballots (hand marked paper ballots or ballot marking devices)

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method : 

Mix of hand count and retabulation.

All ballots originally counted by optical scan equipment are again counted by machine. Any ballots rejected by the machine during retabualtion are counted by hand. If the apparent winner after the initial balloting is the apparent loser after the first machine recount, that candidate shall be entitled to demand a second recount by hand. In addition, whenever a discrepancy between initial balloting and the machine recount cannot be explained, the losing candidate is entitled to demand a hand recount. See 08 NCAC 09.0107.  

“The rules promulgated by the State Board of Elections for recounts shall provide that if the initial recount is not hand-to-eye, and if the recount does not reverse the results, the candidate who had originally been entitled to a recount may, within 24 hours of the completion of the first recount, demand a second recount on a hand-to-eye basis in a sample of precincts. If the initial recount was not hand-to-eye and it reversed the results, the candidate who had initially been the winner shall have the same right to ask for a hand-to-eye recount in a sample of precincts.  See North Carolina General Statutes (NC Gen Stat) § 163-182.7A.

Initiating Mechanisms: 

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated

Election official-initiated

Election Official-Initiated Recounts:

"The county board of elections or the State Board of Elections may order a recount when necessary to complete the canvass in an election.” These are referred to as “discretionary recounts.” However, they may not do so if a candidate has already petitioned for a recount and had their petition denied."  NC Gen Stat § 163-182.7(a).

Timing: There are no timing requirements stipulated in the statutes for recounts initiated by election officials.

Close Vote Margin Options: 

Less than or equal to 1%
Less than or equal to 0.5%
(for a statewide race)
Vote count difference (for a statewide race)
Varies by election contest

A close-vote-margin recount in North Carolina requires a written request from candidates.  See the candidate-initiated options below.

Candidate-Initiated Options : 

Close vote margin required

“In a ballot item within the jurisdiction of the State Board of Elections, a candidate shall have the right to demand a recount of the votes if the difference between the votes for that candidate and the votes for a prevailing candidate are not more than the following: (1) For a nonstatewide ballot item, one percent (1%) of the total votes cast in the ballot item, or in the case of a multiseat ballot item, one percent (1%) of the votes cast for those two candidates. (2) For a statewide ballot item, one-half of one percent (0.5%) of the votes cast in the ballot item, or 10,000 votes, whichever is less.”  NC Gen Stat § 163-182.7(c).

“In a ballot item within the jurisdiction of the county board of elections, a candidate shall have the right to demand a recount of the votes if the difference between the votes for that candidate and the votes for a prevailing candidate is not more than one percent (1%) of the total votes cast in the ballot item, or in the case of a multiseat ballot item not more than one percent (1%) of the votes cast for those two candidates.”  NC Gen Stat § 163-182.7(b)

Timing: For recounts under the jurisdiction of a county board, requests must be received by 5 p.m. on the first business day after the canvass. For recounts under the jurisdiction of the state board, requests must be received by noon the second business day after the canvass.   NC Gen Stat § 163-182.7(b) & (c).

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

No statutory guidance provided

Neither the General Statutes nor the Administrative Code describe costs for the recount or establish which party is responsible for covering these costs. However, we have been informed by the State Board of Elections in North Carolina that the general practice is for the election board of the county conducting a recount to pay the cost of the recount. There is no cost to candidates for recounts ordered by the State Board of Elections under the terms of § 163-182.7A(a), which requires a recount when the “results of the hand-to-eye recount differ from the previous results within those [sample] precincts to the extent that extrapolating the amount of the change to the entire jurisdiction…would result in the reversing of the results.”

Challengers and Observers : 

No statutory guidance for recount observers
No statutory guidance for recount challengers

Section 163-182.7(d)(3) requires the State Board of Elections to develop rules for recounts regarding “the goals of multipartisan participation” and “opportunity for public observation.” However, the rules pertaining to recounts in the North Carolina Administrative Code do not currently contain any mention of observers, partisan ballot challengers, or requirements that the recount be conducted publicly. However, we have been informed by the State Board of Elections that in practice North Carolina recounts have generally had “free access for all interested parties to observing a recount, as long as they do not interfere with the recount operation.”

Note also the instructions on page 5 of Numbered Memo 2016-28, Planning for a Statewide Recount, December 2, 2016: “Any person may attend the recount. This includes the candidates, their representatives or legal counsel, media representatives, and any other interested persons. These persons may observer the counting process, but may not observe individual ballots.”  

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Statutory guidance provided
Secretary of State or Election Board responsible for defining intent

See section 163-182.1(a) for determining voter intent.  

State Has Audit Laws: 
Yes
Revision Notes: 

This information was updated 10/7/2020 using the North Carolina General Statutes including changes through September 27, 2019, and using the North Carolina Administrative Code accessed 10/7/2020.