South Carolina Recount Laws

This information was updated 2/13/2020.

Voting System Used

Paper ballot (ballot marking devices)

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method


In 2019, South Carolina transitioned its voting equipment from direct recording electronic devices to the use of ballot marking devices (BMDs). There are currently no statutes or rules that specify the counting method for recounts of BMD ballots; however, according the South Carolina State Election Commission, "a recount would be conducted by re-scanning and re-tabulating all ballots cast for the office being recounted."

Initiating Mechanisms

Close vote margin

Close Vote Margin Options

Less than or equal to 1%
Initiated automatically

Taxpayer funded recounts are initiated automatically whenever “the difference between the number of votes received by a candidate who has been declared nominated for an office in a primary election or who has been declared elected to an office in a general election and the number of votes received by any other candidate or candidate not declared so nominated or elected….shall be not more than one percent of the total votes which were cast for such office therein, the committee or board charged by law with canvassing such votes shall order a recount of such votes to be made forthwith unless such other candidate or candidates shall waive a recount in writing.  Whenever the difference between the number of votes cast in favor of and opposed to any constitutional amendment, question or other issue is not more than one percent of the total cast thereon, the Board of State Canvassers shall order a recount of such votes to be made forthwith.  unless such other candidate or candidates shall waive a recount in writing.”  South Carolina Code of Laws (SC Code) § 7-17-280.

If the difference between the vote totals is more than 1 percent, there is no option in state law for a recount. 

Timing:  SC Code § 7-17-280. Note that the Municipal Election Commission Handbook (see "Manadatory Recounts," p.21) states that a recount is not conducted on election night.  A recount cannot be conducted until it is officially ordered at the canvass and certification meeting of Municipal Election Commission. 

Challengers and Observers

No statutory guidance for recount observers
No statutory guidance for recount challengers

We found no statutes requiring that recounts be conducted publicly and no guidance for recount challengers; however, according to the South Carolina State Election Commission "the public is allowed to observe the recount" and there is "no challenging of interpretation of voter intent....When interpretation of a hand-marked ballot occurs, it is done publicly, and there is a record of the original ballot and the interpreted ballot."

The Municipal Election Commission Handbook (p.21) states that Commission "must post a public notice 24 hours before meeting." 

Rules for Determining Voter Intent

Statutory guidance provided

In 2020, most South Carolina voters will mark their ballots with a ballot marking device. For hand marked paper ballots such as absentee, provisional and emergency ballots, the following counting rules apply. 

 “If a voter marks more names than there are persons to be elected or nominated to an office or if for any reason it is impossible to determine the voter's choice for any office to be filled, his ballot shall not be counted for such office….”  SC Code § 7-13-1120

For determining voter intent for write-in votes, see SC Code § 7-15-750.

See also the 2020 Poll Managers Handbook (p.53) where it states: “A vote must be counted when there is reasonable certainty as to the voter’s intent in choice of candidate or answer to a question. The determination of a voter’s choice is sometimes a difficult task. The voter may make unclear marks making determining how the voter intended to vote difficult. Managers are required to exercise their best judgment as to how the voter intended to cast his ballot. If it is impossible to tell how the voter intended to vote in a particular contest, no vote can be counted for that contest, but votes may be counted for other contests on the ballot.”

State Has Audit Laws
Revision Notes

This information was updated Feb. 4, 2020 using the South Carolina Code of Laws (SC Code) current through the 2019 Session of the General Assembly.  The South Carolina Code of State Regulations--current through the State Register Volume 43, Issue 9, effective September 27, 2019--contained no relevant regulations.  Additional information from the State Election Commission was added Feb. 13, 2020. 

Source URL: