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Recount Guide

Recount – Definition

Recount means the process of resolving a challenge to the vote count reported for an election. A recount is limited to votes counted in a single contest in any or all early voting centers and precincts as specified in a petition to a local board of elections, a petition to the State Board of Elections (SBE), or a court order. It may include precincts in more than one county. A recount includes:

  • Examining voting units, counted ballots, and election documentation necessary for establishing the accuracy of the vote count;
  • Recounting individual voting unit totals to produce early voting or precinct totals;
  • Re-tabulating totals of early voting centers or individual precincts to produce totals for all early voting centers or precincts within a county; and
  • Re-tabulating votes cast in more than one county to produce totals for the entire contest.

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 that 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 only in the precincts designated in the petition. The petition shall be filed with the election office where the candidate filed the 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 the State Board of Canvassers if the contest is in multiple counties.

Counter-Petition for Recount

An opposing candidate of the petitioner may file a counter-petition if the petition did not recount all of the precincts and, 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.

Recount on a Question

The same petition and counter-petition 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 counter-petitioner.

Cost of a Recount

The petitioner shall pay the cost of the recount requested. However, the petitioner is not liable for the costs if:

  • The outcome of the election is changed;
  • The petitioner has gained a number of votes equal to 2% or more of the total votes cast for the contest; or
  • The margin of difference in the contest is .1% or less of the total votes cast for that contest.

When filing the petition, the petitioner must submit a bond in an amount determined by the appropriate circuit court.

General Guidelines for Conducting a Recount

  • Recounts shall be conducted according to Title 12, Subtitle 1 of the Election Law Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, COMAR 33.12, and State Board instructions and in an orderly manner to ensure an accurate count.
  • The recount petitioner or a court will determine the type of recount to verify the vote count. There are four options to recount votes cast on the voting units during early voting and on election day (cast on the AccuVote-TS voting system). These options are:

    • A manual recount of the Election Totals Reports printed on election day (includes votes cast during early voting and on election day) from the voting units involved in the recount;
    • A re-upload of the AccuVote-TS PC Memory Cards involved in the recount;
    • A manual recount of the Election Totals Reports printed after retrieving archived data from each voting unit involved in the recount; or
    • A manual recount of ballot images involved in the recount.

    There are three options to recount votes cast on provisional and absentee ballots (counted by the AccuVote-OS voting system). These options are:

    • A manual recount of the results from the Election Totals Reports printed during the absentee and provisional ballot canvasses;
    • A re-scan of all absentee and provisional ballots involved in the recount; or
    • A manual recount of all absentee and provisional ballots involved in the recount.

  • The local board of elections is responsible for conducting the recount. (COMAR 33.12.02.05) Counsel to the local board of elections shall be present during the recount.
  • During a recount of absentee and provisional ballots, the decision of the local board to accept or reject an absentee or provisional ballot may not ordinarily be reexamined. In extraordinary cases, an absentee or provisional ballot initially allowed by the local board may be disallowed by the local board because of a disqualifying defect that was not discovered until the recount.
  • The recount shall be scheduled according to COMAR 33.12.02.09 – .10 or any court order.
  • Notice of the recount shall be given in accordance with COMAR 33.12.02.03.
  • Candidates, their representatives, observers, and the press are not permitted to speak or otherwise communicate or to interfere with 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)
  • 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.*

    *Recounting TS votes cast during early voting will likely increase the cost of a recount. Since votes on every voting unit at each early voting center may include votes cast in the contest being recounted, every voting unit used in early voting may be used in the recount.

Challenges During the Recount

Candidates and their representatives are not permitted to speak, communicate, or interfere with the Recount Teams. Any questions regarding the recount from 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 under 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)
  • Challenges may be based on:

    • The allowance or disallowance of a ballot (absentee and provisional ballot recount only);
    • The allowance or disallowance of a vote (absentee and provisional ballot recount only);
    • The recording of votes from voting units;
    • The reliability of voting units;
    • The tallying of votes;
    • The aggregation of the vote count; or
    • Any other part of the recount that could affect the accuracy of the result.

  • The person making the challenge shall complete the Canvass Challenge Form provided by the Election Director. This form includes a request for the individual to state the reason for the challenge. (COMAR 33.12.07.03)
  • If the challenge involves an absentee or provisional ballot or a vote on an absentee or provisional ballot, 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 in a decision to disallow a vote and is final.
  • The Election Director shall record in the Recount Log the basis for the challenge and the local board’s decision.