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Recount Guide

Recount – Definition

A recount is the process of resolving a challenge to the final vote count reported for an election. A recount is limited to votes counted in a single contest and may include votes cast at early voting centers, election day precincts or by absentee or provisional ballot, as specified in a recount petition made to a local board of elections, the State Board of Elections (SBE), or pursuant to a court order. A recount may include precincts in more than one county. There are four recount options:

  • Option 1: A manual tabulation of printed reports from early voting, election day and the absentee and provisional ballot canvasses.  Printed reports from precinct tabulators and high speed scanners (if available) are examined and manually tabulated
  • Option 2: A re-scan of voted paper ballots involved in the recount using precinct tabulators or high speed scanner (if available) to reproduce early voting, precinct or absentee or provisional ballot canvass totals
  • Option 3: A manual recount of voted paper ballots involved in the recount
  • Option 4: A manual recount of ballot images of voted ballots involved in the recount

Petition for Recount

A candidate for public or party office who has been defeated in any election may petition for a recount of the votes cast for the office sought. The petition shall specify that the recount be conducted in all of the precincts in which the office was on the ballot; or the petition can designate specific precincts in which the recount be conducted. The petition shall be filed with the election office where the candidate filed his or her certificate of candidacy. The petition must be filed within 3 days after the results of the election have been certified by the local board of canvassers if the contest is in one county, or by the State Board of Canvassers if the contest is in multiple counties. See, Md. Code Ann. Elec. Law § 12-101.

Counterpetition for Recount

An opposing candidate of the petitioner may file a counterpetition if the recount petition did not request a recount all of the precincts in which the office was on the ballot and, if on completion of the recount, the winner of the election is changed. The counter-petition must be filed within 2 days after the determination of the recount. See, Elec. Law § 12-102.

Recount on a Question

The same petition and counterpetition rules also apply to a recount on a question. The only difference is that any registered voter who was eligible to vote for the question may be the petitioner or counterpetitioner. See, Elec. Law § 12-103; 12-104.

Cost of a Recount

The petitioner shall pay the cost of the recount requested. SBE will determine an estimate for the approximate cost of the recount. The petitioner is not liable for the costs of the recount if:

  • The outcome of the election is changed;
  • The petitioner has gained votes equal to 2% or more of the total votes cast for the contest; or
  • The margin of difference between the two candidates with the most votes is .1% or less of the votes cast for those two candidates.

When filing the recount petition, the petitioner must file a bond with the petition in an amount determined and set by a judge of the appropriate circuit court. If the recount is conducted in only one county, the bond shall be determined and set by a judge of circuit court of that county. If the recount is conducted in more than one county, a judge of the circuit court for Anne Arundel County shall determine and set the bond. See, Elec. Law § 12-105.

General Guidelines for Conducting a Recount

  • Recounts are conducted in accordance with Title 12, Subtitle 1 of the Election Law Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, Title 33, Subtitle 12 of the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR), and State Board instructions in an orderly manner to ensure an accurate recount.
  • The petitioner or a court selects the recount option to verify the vote count. Please contact SBE with questions or for additional information regarding the recount options.
  • The local board of elections is responsible for conducting the recount. Elec. Law § 12-106. Counsel to the local board of elections must be present during the recount. SBE monitors and supports the work of a local board conducting a recount.
  • The decision of the local board to accept or reject any ballot or ballot image may not ordinarily be reexamined. In extraordinary cases, a ballot or ballot image initially allowed by the local board may later be disallowed by the local board because of a disqualifying defect that was not discovered until the recount.
  • The recount is scheduled according to COMAR 33.12.02.09, or pursuant to any court order.
  • Notice of the recount is given in accordance with COMAR 33.12.02.03.
  • The public may be present while the recount is conducted. Candidates, their representatives, observers, and the press, however, are not permitted to speak or otherwise communicate or to interfere with the work of the Recount Teams. Any questions regarding the recount shall be directed solely to the Election Director. COMAR 33.12.03.03C.
  • An observer wishing to challenge an action taken during the recount may ask the Election Director to stop the tally temporarily so that the observer may voice his or her challenge. COMAR 33.12.07.03. Additional information about challenges is provided below.
  • Whenever the room where the recount is being conducted is "unoccupied," the room must be locked (for example: meal breaks, overnight, etc.). COMAR 33.12.03.04.
  • 10. Parties to the recount should be kept informed of the results of the recount while it is in progress. COMAR 33.12.03.05. The petitioner may request, at any time, that the recount be stopped. The petitioner will only be responsible for the actual costs incurred for the portion of the recount conducted.

Challenges During the Recount

Candidates and their representatives are not permitted to speak, communicate, or interfere with the work of the Recount Teams. Any questions regarding the recount from the candidates or their representatives shall be directed to the Election Director.

If a candidate or the candidate’s representative wishes to challenge any action during the recount, the candidate or representative may ask the Election Director to stop the tally temporarily so that the observer may voice his or her challenge.

  • This procedure applies to any challenge during a recount initiated by petition or conducted pursuant to a court order.
  • Any individual who has standing to request the recount or his or her authorized representative may make a challenge during the recount. COMAR 33.12.07.01.
  • A challenge is based on an action or decision of the local board during the recount.
  • The person making the challenge must complete the Canvass Challenge Form provided by the Election Director. The person making the challenge must state the reason for the challenge. COMAR 33.12.07.03.
  • If either a manual recount of voted paper ballots (Option 3) or a manual recount of ballot images (Option 4) is being conducted, the Recount Team whose action has been challenged shall: (1) count the ballot or vote as the team believes proper; (2) separate the ballot; and (3) attach to the ballot the completed Canvass Challenge Form, a notation as to how it was counted, and the names of the team members.
  • The local board shall promptly make a decision on the challenge so as not to delay the completion of the recount. The decision of local board must be unanimous to disallow a vote and the decision is final.
  • The Election Director shall record in the Recount Log the basis for the challenge and the local board’s decision.