State Audit Laws Searchable Database

Audit Database Glossary

Click on any letter or scroll down the page to find a term.

A  B  C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z

A Audit-initiated – This search term, for the Initiating Mechanisms search field, indicates that a state has laws mandating that a recount take place if certain conditions are met during a post-election audit process. Such conditions may include the discovery of sufficient discrepancies in the vote tallies to warrant a recount. Further details can be found under the Audit-Initiated Recounts heading in the Initiating Mechanisms section on each state profile. Audit Laws – This search field shows those states that have in place laws regarding not just recounts but also post-election audits. While only two states (Hawaii and Mississippi) lack recount laws, many more states lack laws regarding post-election audits.

B Ballot – The definition of the term “ballot” actually varies by state. Here, we use the term to refer to paper ballots, and where appropriate, to VVPATs that are designated by law as the official ballot for the recount process. Not included in the term ballot are those votes cast on DREs that do not produce a VVPAT.

C Candidate determines how many/which precincts to recount – This search term, for the Candidate-Initiated Options search field, means that a candidate may specify how extensive they wish the recount to be, by requesting that the recount take place only in certain precincts or jurisdictions. This differs from states that mandate that a recount request must be for all jurisdictions in which the candidate or question was on the ballot. Candidate-initiated – This search term, for the Initiating Mechanisms search field, indicates that a state has laws allowing a candidate or their representatives to request a recount. The details on how candidate-initiated recounts take place vary greatly from state to state, and can be found under the Candidate-Initiated Recounts section on each state profile.


Candidate-Initiated Options– This search field describes a number of notable characteristics that shape the candidate-initiated recount process differently in each state. These include both limitations that a state may set (some states allow candidates to request a recount only if there is a particular close vote margin, or only if they are running for a particular office) and privileges that a state may grant (such as allowing party officials to request a recount if the candidate does not). Canvass – The process of canvassing includes not only the counting of votes on Election Day, but the cumulative examination of all vote totals and subtotals, including that of absentee ballots, to determine the official election result. When we refer to the “initial canvass,” then, it does not necessarily refer to the counting on Election Day, but to the time at which the election authority in question completes the canvass for the election.


Challengers and Observers – This search field describes the different ways in which states provide guidance for the public to participate as observers and challengers in the recount process. See the individual search terms for further clarifications. Close vote margin – Generally, a “close vote margin” is when the margin of votes between two candidates or two answers on a ballot question is quite small, or close. What constitutes “close” varies by state, as does the actual method for calculating this margin; please see the Close Vote Margin section on each state profile for details both on the specific margin set and the method used to calculate the margin. We use the term in several places in the recount database:


1. The Close Vote Margin search field captures the different requirements used by states to determine if the difference in votes received by competing candidates or answers on a ballot measure is small enough to warrant a recount. The search options include both percentages (in which the vote margin between candidates is divided by a given number of votes, such as the total votes cast for an office) as well as vote count differences (in which a set number of votes, rather than a percentage, is given as the requirement). Please note that the percentage options indicate the highest vote margin that will initiate a recount in a given state. See “Less than or equal to X%” for more details.


2. Close vote margin as a search term for the Initiating Mechanisms search field is used to describe any state that has laws requiring that a recount take place if the difference in votes received by competing candidates or answers on a measure is small enough that it falls within a pre-established margin. (The actual language used by states to describe this type of recount varies greatly, but they are often referred to as “automatic” or “mandatory” recounts.)


Recounts initiated by a close vote margin differ from those recounts that are described as candidate - or voter-initiated with a close vote margin required. For the latter, a voter or candidate must take action in order for a recount to begin, though the law limits their ability to request a recount to those times when there is a close vote margin. For the former, election officials are legally bound to begin recount proceedings regardless of the actions of candidates or voters. The term is also used more generally throughout the recount guide any time a small vote margin somehow comes into play for a recount (for instance, a state may require that a different counting method be used if the election results fall within a specified close vote margin). It is important to note that different methods are used from state to state to calculate the vote margin. Please see the Close Vote Margin section of each state profile for details. Close Vote Margin Options– This search field captures the different requirements used by states to determine if the difference in votes received by competing candidates or by opposing positions on a ballot measure is small enough to automatically initiate a recount. The search options include both percentages (in which the vote margin between candidates is divided by a given number of votes, such as the total votes cast for an office) as well as vote count differences (in which a set number of votes, rather than a percentage, is given as the requirement). See "Less than or equal to X%" below for more details.


Close vote margin required– This search term, for both the Candidate-Initiated Options and Voter-Initiated Options search fields, means that recount initiators may only request a recount if the initial election’s results fall within a specified close vote margin. The size and method of calculating the vote margin varies by state.


Contested election – In a contested election, a candidate, party official, or citizen representing one side of a question, challenges the results of an election in court. This differs from an election contest. As a search term for the Candidate-Initiated Options search field, “contested election” means that a candidate may request a recount only if they have already begun legal proceedings to contest the election results.


Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts and Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts – These search fields describe the various means by which states obtain funds to pay for a recount initiated by a candidate or voter(s). This search field exists only for candidate- and voter-initiated recounts, as these are the only initiating mechanisms for which states charge the cost to a private individual, rather than paying the cost from local or state public funds. See the individual search terms for further clarifications.


Counting Method – This search field describes the methods by which votes are recounted. This category exists separately from Voting System Used, for while two states may both use paper ballots, one may hand count all ballots while another may feed all ballots into an automatic tabulator. Unless otherwise noted, the counting method applies to votes cast on the primary and accessible voting equipment and not to how absentee and provisional ballots are counted. See the individual search terms for further clarifications. Counting method chosen by election official – This search term, for the Counting Method search field, indicates that state law allows election officials discretion when performing a recount as to the counting method to be used. The election official responsible for choosing the counting method varies by state. Counting method chosen by initiator – This search term, for the Counting Method search field, indicates that state law allows for the recount initiator (whether a candidate, voter, or party official) to select the counting method to be used. In some states, initiators must select only one counting method for all precincts to be recounted, while in others, they may select different methods for different precincts.


Court-ordered – This search term, for the Initiating Mechanisms search field, indicates that a court (in some cases, a state’s supreme court, but the court in question varies) is somehow involved in initiating a recount or required for allowing recount proceedings to progress. “Court-ordered” applies to situations in which a) a court may independently order a recount to take place; b) the laws regarding recounts are not entirely separate from election contest proceedings, in which a court must grant approval for a recount to take place; or c) a court is responsible for reviewing either candidate, voter, or election official requests for recounts, and the necessity of a recount is left to their discretion. The details on the role of different courts in the recount process varies greatly from state to state, and can be found under the Court-Ordered Recounts heading in the Initiating Mechanisms section on each state profile.


D DRE – Short for direct-recording electronic machine, “DRE” refer to a wide range of equipment that record votes electronically. DREs may also record such votes on a paper trail (see the definition for VVPAT, below), but many DREs are “paperless,” or without a VVPAT. DREs with VVPAT – This search term, for the Voting System Used search field, indicates that precincts throughout a state use only DREs with VVPAT as their primary voting system. DREs without VVPAT – This search term, for the Voting System Used search field, indicates that precincts throughout a state use only DREs without VVPAT as their primary voting system.


E Election contest – An election contest is any office, initiative, or question put to a vote before an electorate. This differs from a contested election, in which the results of an election contest are challenged in court. Election official-initiated – This search term, for the Initiating Mechanisms search field, indicates that a state has laws explicitly allowing election officials either to request (from another election official) a recount or to initiate recount proceedings themselves. The details on how election-initiated recounts take place vary greatly from state to state, and can be found under the Election Official-Initiated Recounts heading in the Initiating Mechanisms section on each state profile. Electronic review – We have chosen to use the term “electronic review” to describe procedures states use to check DRE tallies (excluding the counting of VVPATs by hand). What constitutes an “electronic review” varies, as some states states simply examine the printouts from the DREs, some run the same electronic tabulation protocols as election day, and others print the totals from the results summary. In addition, some states do not prescribe in statute how to 'recount' votes cast on paperless DREs or their statutes are unclear. In all of the cases, electronic reviews can never ensure that the digitally stored voter choices were accurately recorded and/or tallied. Electronic review only – This search term, for the Counting Method search field, indicates that all recounts in a state are conducted by reviewing the totals provided by direct-recording electronic machines. The exact process of such reviews varies by state, as some states simply examine the printouts from the DREs, some run the same electronic tabulation protocols as election day, and others print the totals from the results summary. In addition, some states do not prescribe in statute how to 'recount' votes cast on paperless DREs or their statutes are unclear. See the Counting Method section of each state profile for more details.


I Initiating Mechanism – This search field describes both persons (candidates, voters, election officials, courts) and circumstances (close vote margins, or audit results mandating a recount) that may trigger a recount to occur after the initial counting of votes. See the individual search terms for further clarifications. Initiator – Any person, such as a candidate, party official, or voter, who requests that a recount takes place and hence initiates recount proceedings. Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount – This search term, used for both the Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts and the Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts search fields, indicates that within a given state, the state or local governments collect a deposit or bond from the initiating candidate or voter(s) before proceeding with the recount. The process by which the amount of the deposit or bond is set varies by state. Some establish a set fee (See “Initiator pays set or per jurisdiction fee”), while others require that the deposit cover the full amount of the recount (often to be estimated by the election official receiving the recount request). Some states refund the entire amount of the deposit if the outcome of the election is altered by the recount, while others refund only that portion not actually spent on the recount process.


Initiator pays set or per jurisdiction fee – This search term, used for both the Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts and the Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts search fields, indicates that within a given state, either the state or local governments collect a predetermined fee from the initiating candidate or voter(s) to help cover the costs of the recount. Such fees are often per precinct, but may also be per county, or set at a flat amount for a single recount. The amount may or may not cover the entire cost of the recount.


L Less than or equal to X% – The search terms for the Close Vote Margin search field listed as "Less than or equal to X%" indicate that a state with a close vote margin as an initiating mechanism has set the upper limit for automatically initiating a recount at X%. States vary as to whether the limit is exclusive or inclusive (that is, if it is "less than" or "less than or equal to"). There are only five such upper limits currently in use: -Less than or equal to 1.0% -Less than or equal to 0.5% -Less than or equal to 0.25% -Less than or equal to 0.2% -Less than or equal to 0.1%


M Mix of recount and retabulation – This search term, for the Counting Method search field, indicates that the counting method in precincts throughout a state will be either a hand count of paper ballots or a retabulation of paper ballots using an automatic tabulator. Mix of recount and electronic review – This search term, for the Counting Method search field, indicates that the counting method in precincts throughout a state will be either a hand count of paper ballots or an electronic review of votes cast on direct-recording electronic machines (DREs). Mix of retabulation and electronic review – This search term, for the Counting Method search field, indicates that the counting method in precincts throughout a state will be either a retabulation of paper ballots using an automatic tabulator or an electronic review of votes cast on direct-recording electronic machines (DREs). Mix of recount, retabulation and electronic review – This search term, for the Counting Method search field, indicates that all three possible counting methods are used within that state. Mixed paper ballot and DREs with and without VVPAT – This search term, for the Voting System Used search field, indicates that precincts throughout a state use either paper ballots, DREs with VVPAT, or DREs without VVPAT, as their primary voting system. Mixed paper ballot and DREs with VVPAT – This search term, for the Voting System Used search field, indicates that precincts throughout a state use either paper ballots or DREs with VVPAT as their primary voting system. Mixed paper ballot and DREs without VVPAT – This search term, for the Voting System Used search field, indicates that precincts throughout a state use either paper ballots or DREs without VVPAT, as their primary voting system.


N No statutory guidance provided for counting method – This indicates that we could find no statute, rule, or code specifying the method to be used in counting votes.


No statutory guidance for recount observers – This indicates that a state does not have any statutes, laws, or rules permitting recount initiators or party officials to appoint observers to watch the recount process. We have not included those states that may in practice allow observers without having statutory requirements on the matter.


No statutory guidance for recount challengers – This indicates that a state does not have any statutes, laws, or rules permitting recount initiators or party officials to appoint challengers to participate in the recount process. We have not included those states that may in practice allow challengers without having statutory requirements on the matter.


P Paid entirely by initiator – This search term, used for both the Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts and the Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts search fields, indicates that in all circumstances for a given state, the individual(s) initiating a recount is responsible for providing funds to cover the expenses of conducting the recount. Paid entirely by state or county – This search term, used for both the Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts and the Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts search fields, indicates that in all circumstances for a given state, either the state or local governments are responsible for funding a recount initiated by a candidate or voter(s). Paper ballot – This search term, for the Voting System Used search field, indicates that precincts throughout a state use only paper ballots as their primary voting system. This includes both hand-counted paper ballots and paper ballots that are tabulated by optical scanners. Paper ballot and punch card – This search term, for the Voting System Used search field, indicates that precincts throughout a state use either paper ballots or punch card voting systems. Paper ballot systems include both hand-counted paper ballots and optical-scan ballots that are automatically tabulated. Note, this applies only to Idaho as of Dec. 2010. Party/candidate or initiator has statutory authority to appoint challengers – This search term, for the Challengers and Observers search field, indicates that a state explicitly permits certain parties (which may be voters, candidates, party officials, or a mix thereof) to appoint persons to watch the recount process that also have the ability to challenge the validity of specific ballots or votes. A state may, however, have a provision allowing for a candidate to appoint a challenger, and simultaneously have a separate provision allowing political parties to independently appoint observers, in which case they have been included under each. Party/candidate or initiator has statutory authority to appoint observers – This search term, for the Challengers and Observers search field, indicates that a state explicitly permits certain parties (which may be voters, candidates, party officials, or a mix thereof) to appoint observers to watch the recount process. An observer is anyone allowed to watch the recount proceedings that may not challenge or contest ballots. If a state has a law regarding an initiator's ability to appoint a challenger, they have not been included here, but under the “challengers” designation. A state may, however, have a provision allowing for a candidate to appoint a challenger, and simultaneously have a separate provision allowing political parties to independently appoint observers, in which case they have been included under both. Party official may petition for candidate – This search term, for the Candidate-Initiated Options search field, indicates that a state will accept a recount request or petition filed by a party official in lieu of a candidate's own request. The laws and rules governing a candidate-initiated recount pertain to such a request. Payer of costs depends on outcome of recount – This search term, used for both the Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts and the Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts search fields, indicates that both the amount to be paid by an initiator(s), and whether they must pay anything at all, depends on the outcome of the recount. The exact nature of this varies by state. Some require that a different candidate or answer on a measure be proven by the recount to be the actual winner in order for local or state government to be responsible for the cost. Other states require only that the election outcome be proven to be in any way different from the initial count, while others require that the election outcome differ from the initial count by a set margin.


R Recount – We have retained the use of the word “recount” for states that recount voter-marked paper ballots and voter-verified paper audit trails (VVPAT) by hand. Recount only – This search term, for the Counting Method search field, indicates that all recounts in a state are conducted by hand-counting ballots and/or VVPATs, including any ballots that were initially tabulated by an optical scanner. Retabulation – This term refers to feeding paper ballots into a machine to be automatically counted. This differs from a recount, where ballots are counted by hand. Retabulation only – This search term, for the Counting Method search field, indicates that all recounts in a state are conducted by feeding paper ballots into a machine to be automatically tabulated. This differs from a recount, where ballots are counted by hand. Required hand count of a sample of ballots in addition to other counting methods – This search term, for the Counting Method search field, indicates that while a state may primarily use another counting method, such as retabulation, or a mixture of counting methods across precincts, precincts may nonetheless be required to hand count a sample of ballots to help verify the accuracy of the primary counting method. The method for choosing the sample of ballots varies by state. See the Counting Method section of each state profile for more details.


Rules for Determining Voter Intent– This search field captures whether state law (including administrative rules and codes in addition to state statutes) provides any guidance and who has the authority to establish definitions of voter intent. While some states provide definitions and guidance for how voter intent is determined in statute, others use the statutes to delegate authority to an office such as the Secretary of State or State Election Board; other states neither delegate authority nor provide guidance (whether general or detailed) as to how voter intent should be determined. See the individual search terms for further clarifications.


S Secretary of State or Election Board responsible for defining intent – This search term, for the Rules for Determining Voter Intent search field, indicates that rather than handling the issue of voter intent within state statute, the statutes instead require that a given public official or public body is responsible for establishing any needed rules regarding how to determine voter intent. For most states, this is the Secretary of State, but the responsible official or body varies by state. See the “Rules for Determining Voter Intent” section on each state profile for more details. Specific ballot category (e.g. absentee ballots) – This search term, for the Candidate-Initiated Options search field, means that a candidate may request a recount take place only for specific forms of ballots. For instance, they may be able to request a recount for absentee ballots only, or for just those votes that were cast on paper ballots. In some states this is a restriction (candidates in Louisiana are limited to recounts for absentee ballots only) while in other states it is an option (candidates in Nevada may choose to have only vote-by-mail ballots recounted). Specific offices only – This search term, for the Candidate-Initiated Options search field, means that a state limits the offices that are subject to a recount. For instance, some states restrict recounts to those candidates running for statewide office. Any such restrictions on office are listed under the Candidate-Initiated Options section on each state profile. Statutes specify that recount must be public – This search term, for the Challengers and Observers search field,indicates that a state explicitly outlines in state statute, rule, or code, that recounts are to be open to the public. We have only included states whose laws regarding the public nature of ballot counting are sufficiently broad enough to suggest that recounts are included in such provisions. We have not included those states whose recounts may be public in practice, but who do not have statutory requirements on the matter. See the Challengers and Observers section on each state profile for more details. Statutory guidance – This term is used for a number of search fields in the database, as well as throughout the recount guide. It means that some form of guidance in state statute, rules, or code, is given on the matter at hand. If we remark that “no statutory guidance” was found on a given topic, it means that we were not able to find any statute, rule, or code on the topic for that state. We realize that state laws regularly change so we encourage you to email us if we have marked a state as “no statutory guidance” where you know there to be a law or regulation in place. Please email info@ceimn.org, along with a citation, and preferably a link, to the law. We emphasize “statutory guidance” because the goal of the recount database is to examine state laws. Many election officials, where there is a lack of law providing them instruction, have nonetheless adopted exemplary recount practices. However, we hope to call attention to those places where omissions in the law may be filled. Statutory guidance provided – This indicates that a state has some statute, rule, or code providing instruction on how those who count votes are to determine voter intent. Such laws could include very detailed statutes, complete with examples outlining correct and incorrect forms of interpreting voter intent, or they may be quite brief. We have included here those laws that place the burden of determining intent on poll workers. We have also included guidance for determining voter intent that is provided by a Secretary of State or equivalent election official via a directive or order.


V Varies by election contest – This search term, for the Close Vote Margin search field, indicates that a state has established different close vote margins for different election contests. For instance, there may be a different requirement for questions or initiatives than for offices; for contests involving only a few hundred votes cast than those involving tens of thousands of votes; or for statewide offices than for municipal offices. See the Close Vote Margin section on each state profile for more details. Vote – We use the word “vote” to capture all forms in which a voter records their decision in an election contest, whether that be marking a paper ballot by hand or casting their vote electronically on a DRE. Vote count difference (not percentage-based) – This search term, for the Close Vote Margin search field, indicates that a state's close vote margin is set, not as any percentage of any vote count, but instead as a fixed number of votes. For instance, a state may require a recount in case of a tie vote, or for any election contest in which there is a difference between the two leading candidates of less than 100 votes. Voter-initiated – This search term, for the Initiating Mechanisms search field, indicates that a state has laws allowing a voter or group of voters to request a recount. The details on how voter-initiated recounts take place vary greatly from state to state, and can be found under the Voter-Initiated Recounts section on each state profile.


Voter-Initiated Options – This search field describes the characteristics that shape the voter-initiated recount process in each state. These include both limitations a state may set (some states allow voters to request a recount only if there is a particular close vote margin) and privileges a state may grant (such as allowing voters to request recounts for offices as well as ballot measures). See the individual search terms for further clarifications. Voters determine how many/which precincts to recount – This search term, for the Voter-Initiated Options search field, indicates that voters may specify how extensive they wish the recount to be by requesting that the recount take place only in certain precincts or jurisdictions. This differs from states that mandate that a recount request must be for all jurisdictions in which the candidate or question was on the ballot. Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions – This search term, for the Voter-Initiated Options search field, indicates that voters may request a recount for election contests involving ballot initiatives and questions. As the terms used to describe ballot initiatives varies by state, we use the phrase “initiatives/questions” as a shorthand that also includes, but is not limited to, the terms: issues, measures, propositions, referendum, etc. Voters may request recounts for offices – This search term, for the Voter-Initiated Options search field, indicates that voters may request a recount for election contests involving candidates. Many states restrict voter-initiated recounts to measures, initiatives, and questions only. Those states that do allow voters to request a recount for offices may place restrictions on the offices eligible for such a recount.


Voting System Used – This search field describes the various methods and equipment used by voters to cast their votes in each state. This category focuses only on the primary and accessible voting equipment used, and does not include any variations that may exist for absentee or provisional ballots. For most states, absentee ballots are hand-counted paper ballots only. See the individual search terms for further clarifications.


VVPAT – Short for Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail, VVPAT, means that there is a print out of the votes cast on a DRE. This allows voters to verify that their votes were accurately recorded, and used later by election officials during both recounts and post-election audits.





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