By Wendy Underhill
- Recounts are not cumulative across states; state law dictates standards
and procedures on how to count and recount votes within each state. There is no
- Recounts rarely change the outcome of an election. One advocacy group, Fair Vote, says in a 2011 report that only 11 “consequential” statewide recounts took place
between 2000 and 2009, and of those, only 3 changed the outcome.
- Recounts are costly. The Cost of Statewide Recounts: A Case Study in Minnesota and Washington, a 2010 report from the Pew Center on the States, looks at the 2008 Senate recount in Minnesota and the 2004 gubernatorial recount in Washington. While both were costly, the study says that a state can limit the costs by establishing clear and precise procedures prior to Election Day.
As for the “how tos” of recounts, NCSL maintains a list of states that have automatic recount thresholds. If the margin is less than 0.5 percent, an automatic recount paid for by the state takes place in Colorado and Florida. In Ohio the threshold is 0.25 percent for statewide offices and 0.5 percent for all other offices. Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin do not have automatic thresholds. Instead, candidates or citizens can request (and pay for) recounts.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to recount procedures. The details on all recount, absentee ballot and provisional ballot statutes in battleground states are gathered in Election 2012 Recounts, released last week by the Brennan Center for Justice.
Many states also have online manuals for election administrators, manuals that take statutory requirements and make them operable. Here are several: Florida, Iowa,
Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin.