Vermont Recount Laws

This information was updated August 31, 2018. 

All references to statutes below can be found in Title 17 of the Vermont Statutes Annotated (17 V.S.A.) available here

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
Counting method chosen by initiator  (local elections only and only for retabulation requests) 

Recounts initiated by candidates for primary and general elections are conducted primarily by retabulation.  Ballots are reviewed for markings of voter intent and those ballots that are deemed not readable by the tabulator are hand counted. 17 V.S.A. § 2602e(a) & (b).  The remaining ballots are retabulated. 17 V.S.A. § 2602f

“The same vote tabulator or vote tabulator memory card used in any local, primary, or general elections shall not be used in a recount of that election.”  17 V.S.A. § 2493(c).

For local elections, recounts initiated by candidates are counted in a similar manner as votes were counted on election day.  Under certain conditions, a candidate may request that the recount be conducted by retabulation. 17 V.S.A. § 2685

For local elections, when recounts are initiated by voters the procedures “shall be the same as in the case of recount of the votes cast for a candidate at an election.” 17 V.S.A. § 2688(b).  

Counting procedures for recounts of non-local elections can be found in 17 V.S.A. § 2602a-2602h.  Counting procedures for recounts of local elections can be found in 17 V.S.A. § 2685 and 2685a.

According to the Vermont Office of the Secretary of State, the results of a recount are binding.

Initiating Mechanisms: 

Election official-initiated 
Close-vote margin
Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated

Election Official-Initiated Recounts:

In the event of a tie vote for elections other than local elections, the canvassing committee shall file a request for a recount following the same guidelines as those for candidates.  17 V.S.A. § 2592(l)

Timing:   17 V.S.A. § 2602(b) and 2602a.

Close Vote Margin Options: 

Varies by election contest
Initiated by request

Candidates for state, county and local elections, and registered voters (for local ballot questions only) have the right to a taxpayer funded, close-vote-margin recount under the circumstances listed in the candidate-initiated and voter-initiated options below. The initiation of the recount requires the filing of a petition. 

Candidate-Initiated Options : 

Close vote margin required 

In an election for statewide office, county office, or state senator, if the difference between the number of votes cast for a winning candidate and the number of votes cast for a losing candidate is  two percent or less of the total votes cast for all the candidates for an office, divided by the number of persons to be elected, that losing candidate shall have the right to have the votes for that office recounted.  17 V.S.A. § 2601(a)(1).

In an election for state representative, if the difference between the number of votes cast for a winning candidate and the number of votes cast for a losing candidate is five percent or less of the total votes cast for all the candidates for an office, divided by the number of persons to be elected, that losing candidate shall have the right to have the votes for that office recounted. 17 V.S.A. § 2601(a)(2).

For local elections, if the difference between the number of votes cast for a winning candidate and the number of votes cast for a losing candidate is five percent or less of the total votes cast for all the candidates for an office, divided by the number of persons to be elected, that losing candidate shall have the right to have the votes for that office recounted. 17 V.S.A. § 2683(b).

Timing: For local elections, see 17 V.S.A. § 2683(a) and 2684.  For all other elections, see 17 V.S.A. § 2602(b).

Voter-Initiated Options: 

Close vote margin required
Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions 

For local elections, any registered voter, or in the case of a union school district, at least one registered voter from each member of the union district, may request a recount for ballot questions, if the margin by the ballot question passed or failed is less than 5% of the total votes cast on the question. 17 V.S.A. § 2688.  

Timing:  17 V.S.A. § 2688(b).

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

Paid entirely by state or county

All recount costs are paid by the state. There is no charge to recount petitioners. 17 V.S.A. § 2602i.

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts: 

Paid entirely by state or county

All recount costs are paid by the state. There is no chage to the petitioners. 17 V.S.A. § 2602i.

Challengers and Observers : 

Statutes specify that recount must be public
No statutory guidance for recount observers
No statutory guidance for recount challengers

For recounts involving statewide offices, county offices, state senator or state representative, the candidates may not appoint challengers but they may submit a list of a minimum of 10 nominees for individuals to serve on the recount committee which assists in the recount.  In making the appointments to the committee, the Superior Court will appoint to the committee an equal number of persons representing each candidate, to the extent practicable. 17 V.S.A. § 2602a.

For recounts involving local elections, there are no provisions for candidates to appoint individuals to serve on a recount committee. 17 V.S.A. § 2685a.  However, the petitioner, the opposing candidates, and their designated representatives may inspect the ballots and observe the recount under the guidance of the board. 17 V.S.A. § 2685(b)

For recounts on local ballot questions, the petitioner and his or her designated representative and a voter representing the other side of the question voted upon and his or her designated representative may inspect the vote and observe the recount under the guidance of the board of civil authority.  17 V.S.A. § 2688(c).

Recounts are open to the public.  Persons who are not participating in the recount  shall be permitted to view a recount in progress.  17 V.S.A. § 2602c and 2685a(h)(2)

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

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

Basic statutory guidelines for voter intent, can be found in 17 V.S.A. § 2587 and in the Code of Vermont Rules 04-010-003.  Rules for determining voter intent are provided by the Secretary of State and are listed in the 2018 Elections Procedures Manual (Appendices K and M).

State Has Audit Laws: 
Yes
Revision Notes: 

This information was updated August 31, 2018 using the Vermont Statutes (current through all actions of the 2017 legislature) and the Code of Vermont Rules (current through July 18, 2018).