An election recount is a repeat tabulation of votes cast in an election that is used to determine the correctness of an initial count. Recounts will often take place if the initial vote tally during an election is extremely close. Election recounts will often result in changes in contest tallies. Errors can be found or introduced from human factors, such as transcription errors, or machine errors, such as misreads of paper ballots.
In the United States recounts rarely reverse election results. Of the 4,687 statewide general elections held from 2000 to 2015, 27 were followed by a recount, and only three resulted in a change of outcome from the original count: 2004 Washington gubernatorial election, 2006 Vermont Auditor of Accounts election, and 2008 United States Senate election in Minnesota.
A machine recount is a retabulation of ballots cast during the election. This can be done using an optical scan voting system, punched card system or direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machine. With document-based Ballot Voting Systems, ballots are counted a second time by some form of machine. With Non-document-based Ballot Voting Systems officials will recollect vote data from each voting machine which will be combined by a central tabulation system.
A manual or "hand" recount involves each individual physical representation of voter intent being reviewed for voter intent by one or more individuals.
With DRE voting machines, a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) is examined from each voter. For some DREs that do not generate a VVPAT, images can be printed for each ballot cast and counted individually.[clarification needed]
Recounts can be mandatory or optional. In some jurisdictions, recounts are mandatory in the event the difference between the top two candidates is less than a percentage of votes cast or of a fixed number. Mandatory recounts are paid for by the elections official, or the state. Mandatory recounts can usually be waived by the apparent losing candidate. The winning side will usually encourage the loser to waive the recount in a show of unity and to avoid spending taxpayer money.
Each jurisdiction has different criteria for optional recounts. Some areas permit recounts for any office or measure, while others require that the margin of victory be less than a certain percentage before a recount is allowed. In all instances, optional recounts are paid for by the candidate, their political party, or, in some instances, by any interested voter. The person paying for the recount has the option to stop the recount at any time. If the recount reverses the election, the jurisdiction will then pay for the recount.
This section needs expansion with: laws from states that aren't listed in the table. You can help by adding to it. (November 2020)
|Arizona||When difference is less than 0.1%||Not available|
|Georgia||None||Available, if difference is less than 0.5%|
|Michigan||When difference is less than 2000 votes||Available|
|Pennsylvania||When difference is less than 0.5%||Available|
|Wisconsin||None||Available; if difference is less than 0.25%, state pays costs|
More than one recount is allowed if a candidate or their agent requests one and the returning officer deems it appropriate. It is possible for a defeated candidate denied a recount by the Returning Officer, to request one from the court by means of an election petition. There are several cases where a Parliamentary election has been the subject of a court-ordered recount.