Ohio Recount Laws

This information was updated in October 2018 using the Ohio Revised Code (ORC).

Voting System Used: 

Mixed paper ballot and DREs with VVPAT

For direct-recording electronic (DRE) machines with a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT), the VVPAT serves as the official ballot to be used in recounts. See the Ohio Revised Code, Title 35, Section 3506.18.  For more details visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method : 

Required hand count of a sample of ballots in addition to other counting methods
Mix of hand count and retabulation

Election officials are required to randomly select precincts whose votes together equal 5% of the total votes cast for the office. 

In the randomly selected precincts with optical scan voting machines, the ballots will be hand counted and then run through the optical scan tabulator.  The electronic results of this retabulation are compared with the hand count tally. If the electronic results and the hand count tally are identical, the recount proceeds by retabulating “each ballot from each precinct on which the candidate contest, question or issue to be recounted appears…”  Ohio Secretary of State's Post-Election Activities Directive, 2017-14, Section (F)(3)(d)(iii).

If there is a difference between the hand count tally and the electronic results, then election officials must complete a verification process to determine the source of this difference.  “If, after three rounds of hand-tallying the ballots for each randomly selected precincts still do not match, all ballots on which the candidate contest, question or issue to be recounted appears shall be hand-tallied.” Directive, 2017-14 Section (F)(3)(d)(iv).

In the randomly selected precincts with DREs, a hand count of the VVPATs  is compared to the electronic summary of the initial election results. . If there is a difference between the hand count and the electronic summary, election officials must complete a  verification process to determine the source of this difference.

“If, after three rounds of hand tallying, the voter verified paper audit trail for that DRE still does not match, the final hand tally of the voter verified paper audit trail for that DRE shall be the recounted tally for that candidate contest, question, or issue. “ Directive 2017-14 Section (F)(4)(e)(iii).

Initiating Mechanisms: 

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated

Close Vote Margin Options: 

Less than or equal to 0.5%
Less than or equal to 0.25%
Varies by election contest
Initiated automatically

For county, municipal, or district elections, both primary and general, a recount is automatically initiated when the vote margin between the apparent winning candidate and the next leading candidate is less than or equal to 0.5% of the total vote. For state-wide elections, this margin must be less than or equal to 0.25%. ORC § 3515.011.  Details on calculating the close vote margin can also be found in Directive 2017-44, Section (B)(1)&(2).

Timing: See ORC § 3515.03. Separate timing requirements are set out for recounting votes for presidential electors, to comply with federal law.  ORC § 3515.041.

Candidate-Initiated Options : 

Candidate determines how many/which precincts to recount

Any candidate who received votes in a general, special, or primary election but was not declared the winner or nominee may request a recount, for any or all of the precincts in which their office was voted upon.  ORC § 3515.01. The apparent winning candidate may also file for a recount for any precincts not included in the apparent defeated candidate's request, but only if the recount has altered the election results. ORC § 3515.06.

TimingORC § 3515.02 and ORC § 3515.06.

Voter-Initiated Options: 

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

Any five voters may together request a recount for either a ballot question or issue. Voters must state whether they voted "Yes" or "No" on the ballot question or issue. ORC § 3515.01. Additional groups of five voters may request a recount for any precincts not included in the original request, if the recounting has altered the election result. ORC § 3515.06.

Timing: The application for a recount must be filed within five days after results are declared. ORC § 3515.02.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

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

Recount applications, whether initiated by voters or by candidates, are to be accompanied by a $60 per precinct deposit. Actual expenses are later calculated by election officials and deducted from this deposit. Directive Section (C)(2)&(3).  If a gain of 4% or more of the votes cast in a given precinct is made in favor of the recount applicant, the applicant will not be charged for that precinct. If the outcome of the election is decided in favor of the applicant, no costs for any precincts will be charged to the applicant. See ORC § 3515.07.

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

Recount applications, whether initiated by voters or by candidates, are to be accompanied by a $60 per precinct deposit. Actual expenses are later calculated by election officials and deducted from this deposit.  Directive Section (C)C(2)&(3).   If a gain of 4% or more of the votes cast in a given precinct is made in favor of the recount applicant, the applicant will not be charged for that precinct. If the outcome of the election is decided in favor of the applicant, no costs for any precincts will be charged to the applicant. ORC § 3515.07.

Challengers and Observers : 

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

Any applicant for a recount, and any candidate for whom votes were cast for such an office, is entitled both to “attend and observe the recount,” and to “have any person whom the candidate designates attend and observe the recount.” ORC § 3515.03. Voters filing for a recount on a question or issue must designate a chairman to represent their group, and both the chairman and a designated attorney may request that they be allowed to attend and observe the recount.  ORC § 3515.03(4).  Ohio statute also specifies that recounts may arise during an election contest, and that both the contestor and contestee may appoint one observer to attend and view the recount.  ORC § 3515.13. Ohio does not require that recounts be conducted publicly, and instead limits those able to observe to persons identified in ORC § 3515.03.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Statutory guidance provided

Guidelines for determining voter intent on optical scan ballots can be found in ORC § 3506.21.

State Has Audit Laws: 
No