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.

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.

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.

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.

Audit Laws Details

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.

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).

Cost for Candidate-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.

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.

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.

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.

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 a 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.

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.

Initiating Mechanisms

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.

This information was updated in October 2020.

All subsections below, unless otherwise noted, are from the Wisconsin Statutes, Chapter 9, “Post-Election Actions; Direct Legislation,” Section 9.01, “Recounts” available here

Voting System Used

Mixed paper ballot and DREs with VVPAT (hand marked paper ballots and ballot marking devices.)

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method

Mix of hand count and retabulation
Counting method chosen by election official

Recount initiators may petition the court for a recount to be conducted by hand, though the law specifies that the burden of proof is on the petitioner to demonstrate why a hand count should be enforced. However, the board of canvassers may, at their discretion, chose to conduct a recount by hand.

Hand counted paper ballots and optically scanned paper ballots are retabulated on an automatic tabulator. Votes cast on direct-recording electronic machines (DREs) can be recounted by detaching, and counting by hand, the voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT). Wisconsin Statutes (WI Stat) § 5.90(1) & (2). See also the Wisconsin Elections Commission 2018 recount manual for a description of counting methods.

Initiating Mechanisms

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated

Close Vote Margin Options
Less than or equal to 0.25%
Vote count difference
Varies by number of votes cast
Initiated by request
 

For an election at which there are 4,000 or fewer votes cast, and if the difference between the votes cast for the leading candidate and those cast for the petitioner or the difference between the affirmative and negative votes cast upon any referendum question is less than 10, then the petitioner is not required to pay a fee.   If more than 4,000 votes are cast and the difference is not more than 0.25 percent of the total votes cast for the office or on the question, the petitioner is not required to pay a fee.  Wis. Stat. § 9.01(1)(ag)1.

Close-vote-margin recounts must be requested and the  petitioner is required to state that “a mistake or fraud has been committed…or that another specified defect, irregularity, or illegality occurred in the conduct of the election.”  Wis. Stat. § 9.01(1)(a)(2)(b).

Timing:  Wis. Stat. § 9.01(1)(a)1

Candidate-Initiated Options

Close vote margin required
Candidate determines how many/which precincts to recount

If a candidate is not entitled to a taxpayer funded recount as defined in the close-vote-margin section, then the candidate may petition and pay for a recount if the following close-vote margins are met:

For an election at which 4,000 or fewer votes are cast for the office that the candidate seeks, a candidate who trails the leading candidate by no more than 40 votes may petition for a recount.  For an election at which more than 4,000 votes are cast for the office that the candidate seeks, a candidate who trails the leading candidate by no more than 1 percent of the total votes cast for that office may petition for a recount.  Wis. Stat. § 9.01(1)(a)5.

The candidate filing a recount petition may choose to select only a few wards to be included in the recount.  Wis. Stat. § 9.01(1)(a)3. If the recount is not a complete recount, the opposing candidate, or any voter or other interested party has the right to request a recount in any or all of the remaining wards. Wis. Stat. § 9.01(4).

Timing:   Wis. Stat. § 9.01(1)(a)1 and 9.01(1)(ar)3.

Voter-Initiated Options

Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions 

An elector who voted on a ballot question and is not eligible for a taxpayer-funded recount as defined in the close-vote-margin section, may petition for and assume the cost of a recount for that question. The elector may petition for the recount regardless of the difference between the affirmative and negative votes on the ballot question.  Wis. Stat. § 9.01(1)(a)1.

The petitioner is required to state that “a mistake or fraud has been committed…or that another specified defect, irregularity, or illegality occurred in the conduct of the election.”  Wis. Stat. § 9.01(1)(a)(2)(b

The elector filing a recount petition may choose to select only a few wards to be included in the recount. Wis. Stat. § 9.01(1)(a)3. If the recount is not a complete recount, any voter or other interested party may petition for a recount in any or all of the remaining wards.  Wis. Stat. § 9.01(4).

Timing:  Wis. Stat. § 9.01(1)(a)1

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts

Paid entirely by initiator

The petitioner shall pay a fee equal to the actual cost of performing the recount in each ward or municipality for which the petition requests a recount, plus the actual cost incurred by the commission to provide services for performing the recount.  Wis. Stat. § 9.01(1)(ag)2.

All fees shall be prepaid in cash or another form of payment which is acceptable to the officer to whom they are paid.  Wis. Stat. § 9.01(ag)3.

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts

Paid entirely by initiator

The petitioner shall pay a fee equal to the actual cost of performing the recount in each ward or municipality for which the petition requests a recount, plus the actual cost incurred by the commission to provide services for performing the recount.  Wis. Stat. § 9.01(1)(ag)2.

All fees shall be prepaid in cash or another form of payment which is acceptable to the officer to whom they are paid. Wis. Stat. § 9.01(ag)3.

Challengers and Observers

Statutes specify that recount must be public
Party/candidate or initiator has statutory authority to appoint challengers

“All steps of the recount shall be performed publicly.”  “The candidates, the person demanding the recount and their authorized representatives and counsel may object to the counting of any ballot.”  Wis. Stat. § 9.01(1)(b)11. “Interested persons” are allowed to observe a recount.  Wis. Stat. § 9.01(3).

Rules for Determining Voter Intent

Statutory guidance provided
Secretary of State or Election Board responsible for defining intent

The Wisconsin Elections Commission has a manual designed to provide guidance to election officials in determining voter intent.  The manual that covers partisan primaries can be found here and the manual that covers the spring primary, spring election and general election can be found here

State Has Audit Laws
Yes

See this states audit law information at Verified Voting.
More details can be found at the Wisconsin Election Commission website here.

Revision Notes

This information was updated in October 2020 using the Wisconsin Statutes (WS) updated through 2019 Wisconsin Act 186