Texas Recount Laws

This information was updated October 23, 2018. 

Note: Please read the counting method section first to understand the process by which votes are recounted or reviewed in Texas.  In the text below, we use the word “recount” to reference voting machine retabulations, electronic reviews as well as manual recounts. 

Voting System Used: 

Mixed baper ballot and DREs without VVPAT

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method : 

Mix of hand count, retabulation and electronic review
Counting method chosen by initiator

A large number of precincts in Texas use direct-recording electronic machines (DREs) without a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT), meaning that only an electronic review can be conducted for many votes. No description of the electronic review is provided.  The Secretary of State is tasked with prescribing the counting procedures for a recount of votes on DREs.  See the Texas Statutes-Election Code (TEC), Title 13, Section 214.071.  The statutes mention the use of DRE "ballot images" in recounts.  TEC 213.016.

For automatic recounts in the case of a tie vote, the counting method is the same as that used for the election, resulting in a mix of recount, retabulation and electronic review in various precincts.  TEC 216.004.

For candidate and voter-initiated recounts, the initiator may choose the counting method. For votes cast on paper ballots, they may choose a hand count of the ballots. They may also choose a recount by retabulating the ballots on automatic tabulating equipment, which the Texas Election Code refers to as an “electronic recount.” However, they must choose the same counting method for all precincts in which the recount is to be conducted.  TEC 214.042.

For those precincts with paper ballots, if after a program test the initiator is dissatisfied with the program or equipment, they may request an alternative counting method.  TEC 214.048.  If two petitions for a recount are submitted for the same office, and one petitioner requests the recount be done by hand, the recount shall be conducted by hand. TEC 212.005(D).

For additional information on recounts in Texas, see the "Procedures to Request and Conduct a Recount,” provided by the Office of the Texas Secretary of State.

Initiating Mechanisms: 

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated

Voter-initiated

Close Vote Margin Options: 

Tie vote only
Initiated automatically

There is an automatic recount if an election for an office results in a tie. There are no automatic recounts for any other close vote margins. TEC 216.  For the automatic recount to take place, the appropriate election authority must file for the recount in the same manner as other recount petitioners (i.e., candidates or voters). TEC 216.003.

Timing TEC 216.003. See also the timing requirements for initial recounts for candidate-initiated options.

Candidate-Initiated Options : 

Close vote margin required
Candidate determines how many/which precincts to recount

Texas law distinguishes between three different types of recounts for which a candidate may apply: initial, supplementary, and expedited.

An initial recount is the first recount that takes place. TEC 212.022. If the initial recount is partial, as defined by statute, and does not cover all votes cast for the office, a supplementary recount may be requested. TEC 212.051.  In addition, during an initial recount, when a petition is approved for a partial recount in election precincts in which paper ballots were used, any opposing candidate may have the remaining election precincts in which paper ballots were used included in the initial recount. TEC 212.035(a).  The requirements and restrictions for initial recounts depend on the office recounted as well as the type of voting system utilized in the requested precinct.  

Initial Recounts
Initial recounts are available for all candidates except those for whom a majority vote is required for office and for which voters cast votes for more than two candidates for the office. TEC 212.081. For these exceptions, candidates may apply for an expedited recount (see “Expedited Recounts” below for details.) Additionally, there are different requirements for presidential recounts in both primary and general elections.

For those precincts in which DREs or optical scan systems are used, any defeated candidate may request a recount of the electronic voting system results without showing grounds and without a close vote margin. TEC 212.0241.

TEC 212.022 states that a candidate for nomination or election to an office may obtain an initial recount in an election in which the person was a candidate if:
“(1)  the difference in the number of votes received by the candidate and any candidate for the office who is shown by the election returns to be nominated, elected, or entitled to a place on a runoff ballot or tied for nomination, election, or entitlement to a place on a runoff ballot is less than 10 percent of that candidate's number of votes;
(2)  the candidate is shown by the election returns to be entitled to a place on a runoff ballot or tied for nomination, election, or entitlement to a place on a runoff ballot;
(3)  the secretary of state certifies that counting errors affecting the election occurred in one or more election precincts in which paper ballots were used, as provided by Section 212.034;  or
(4)  the total number of votes received by all candidates for the office is less than 1,000 as shown by the election returns.“

For presidential primaries, see TEC 212.0231.

Candidates who allege that errors occurred during the initial canvass may request a recount, but with their application they must submit signed affidavits from election judges alleging counting errors.  Other candidates must be notified of the petition and are allowed the opportunity to likewise submit affidavits from judges who claim no errors occurred. The Secretary of State is required to evaluate all affidavits, and may not approve the request for a recount “if the facts are disputed or raise unresolved legal questions as to whether counting errors occurred.”  TEC 212.034.
  
Timing:  TEC 212.028.

Supplementary Recounts
Supplementary recounts may take place if an initial recount is only a partial recount and there are precincts for a given office that have not yet been recounted.  These recounts are available only if the results of the partial recount fit certain criteria.  TEC 212.053. Supplementary recounts take place only for those precincts using paper ballots. TEC 212.052.

Timing:  TEC 212.056.

Expedited Recounts
Candidates may apply for an expedited recount if a majority vote (not a plurality) is required for the nomination or election to the office and if votes were cast for more than two candidates. TEC 212.081. Expedited recounts are initiated by petitions submitted and processed in accordance with Subchapter B (Initial Recounts).  TEC 212.082.

Timing: Note the expedited deadline for submitting petitions in TEC 212.083.

Voter-Initiated Options: 

Close vote margin required
Voters determine how many/which precincts to recount
Voters may request recounts for offices
Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions

Voters may request initial and supplementary recounts for ballot measures.  All voter-initiated recounts require a minimum of 25 voters to jointly file the recount request. An initial recount is the first recount that takes place. TEC 212.024.  If the initial recount is partial, as defined by statute, and does not cover all votes cast for the office or measure at hand, a supplementary recount may also be requested. TEC 212.053. Voters may request  a recount only for presidential primaries and only under certain conditions. TEC 212. 0231.

Note that campaign treasurers of a specific-purpose political committee may also petition for recounts of ballot measures. TEC 212.024.

Timing: For initial recounts, see TEC 212.028.  For supplementary see TEC 212.056.

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 initiators must pay a deposit before the recount begins. The amount of the deposit depends on the counting method chosen by the initiator. The deposit is $60 per precinct in which hand counted paper ballots were used and $100 per precinct in which an electronic voting system was used. TEC 212.112.  Whether the votes are recounted by hand, retabulated, or electronically reviewed, the full costs of the recount are assessed against the initiator unless the recount changes the outcome of the election. TEC 215.003 and 215.004. There are additional circumstances under which a deposit would be returned, such as rejection or withdrawal of the petition (TEC 212.113), or if the deposit exceeds the assessed costs. TEC 215.004(b)).

The costs of automatic recounts are paid by the political subdivisions or county executive committees. TEC 216.005.

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 petitioners must pay a deposit before the recount begins. The amount of the deposit depends on the counting method chosen by the initiator. The deposit is $60 per precinct in which hand counted paper ballots were used, and $100 per precinct in which an electronic voting system was used. TEC 212.112.  Whether the votes are recounted by hand, retabulated, or electronically reviewed, the full costs of the recount are assessed against the initiator unless the recount changes the outcome of the election. TEC 215.003 and 215.2004.

There are also additional circumstances under which a deposit would be returned, such as rejection or withdrawal of the petition (TEC 212.113), or if the deposit exceeds the assessed costs (TEC 215.004(b)).

Challengers and Observers : 

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

Recount petitioners and political parties are entitled to have watchers present for each counting team in the recount.  Watchers are not given the authority to challenge ballots. TEC 213.013.  Observation of the recount by the public is prohibited.  TEC 213.015.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Statutory guidance provided

See TEC 65.009.  The chair of a recount committee has the same authority as an election judge to inteprete a voter's mark on a ballot and make a determination on whether it will be counted. TEC 213.006.  See also the Handbook for Election Judges and Clerks (pp. 75-84). 

State Has Audit Laws: 
Yes
Revision Notes: 

This information was updated 10/21/2018 using the Texas Statutes-Election Code current through the 1st Called Session of the 85th Legislature, August 2017.