Recount Procedures

Lynda Roberts, Registrar of Voters, Elections

Recount Procedures (California Elections Code Sec. 15600-15634)

Request Recount in Writing

  • Any voter may, within five days of the completion of the official canvass but not later than 5 p.m. on the fifth day, file a request for a recount for any local or countywide election with the Registrar of Voters. The request must be in writing and specify on behalf of which candidate or position on a measure it is filed. The recount request must be filed within five days of the completion of the official canvass. Completion of the canvass is when the elections official signs the certified statement of the results of the election. (CA Elections Code Sec. 15620). The requestor of the recount must select whether the recount shall be conducted manually or by machine.
  • For any election which is conducted in more than one county but not statewide, the request for a recount may be filed with any or all of the affected counties and must be filed within five days of the county's completion of the official canvass.
  • Any recount request for a statewide office or measure must be filed with the California Secretary of State and not the county Registrar of Voters.

Meet with Election Official to Review Ground Rules and Procedures

Appoint Spokesperson

Each party of interest must appoint one spokesperson and notify the Registrar of Voters of the name of the person. This person can be in addition to the observers and will have access to all parts of the recount area when escorted by election office personnel. A different person may be appointed periodically upon written notification to the Registrar of Voters. Such persons shall be authorized by the parties of interest to make final decisions on their behalf.

Counting Boards

Each counting board will consist of four voters of the county appointed by the elections official and shall receive the same compensation per day as is paid to members of precinct boards (CA Elections Code Sec. 15625). One supervisor will supervise a maximum of three boards.

Cost of a Recount

In determining the cost of conducting a recount, the Registrar's office follows the standards put forth by the statewide Association of Clerks and Elections Officials and the Secretary of State.

The cost of a recount depends on the number of precincts to be recounted and the time it takes the elections office to gather together the ballots and materials specified in the Request for Recount.

The estimated cost of a particular recount is calculated at the time that the elections office receives the request for the recount. The actual cost may change from day to day, depending on the requirement to provide additional supervision, security, or legal counsel.

Payment for a recount is by cash, cashier’s check, or certified check.

The elections official will notify the recount proponents of the amount that is due each day. The requestors of the recount must pay for the cost of each day of the recount by 9:00 AM. The recount will not begin or continue until the daily payment is made.

Costs are based on actual staff time and materials. The cost for each person of a four-person recount board is the amount that the County pays to clerks for their work at the polls.

The following list below gives an idea of the types of activities typically included in the cost of a recount.

Items Included in the Cost of a Recount

  • Meet with proponents
  • Identify and prepare materials
  • Hire and train recount boards
  • Legal advice (if necessary)
  • Security personnel (if necessary)
  • Resolve challenges
  • Documentation/correspondence
  • Prepare tally sheets
  • Cost of 1 recount board (4 members)
  • Review of material – supervision
  • Supervision of recount and board(s)
  • County overhead at current rate

Advance Deposit

Before the recount starts on each day of the recount, the requestor of the recount shall pay to the Registrar of Voters a sum sufficient for that day's recount as determined by the election official. If the advance deposits are not paid, the Registrar of Voters will terminate the recount. The money deposited is returned to the requestor if the recount changes the outcome of the election (CA Elections Code Sec.15624).


Order of Precincts

If the initial request for a recount does not specify the order of precincts, the Registrar of Voters will determine the order of any count. Any change to the order must be requested in writing and approved by the Registrar of Voters.

Relevant Material

Requests to review relevant material must be included in the written request for the recount. If requested, review of relevant material will be scheduled by the Registrar of Voters after recount has started.


The recount shall be commenced not more than seven days following receipt of the request for a recount. The recount is conducted a minimum of six hours per day between the hours of 8:30 AM and 5:00 PM Monday through Friday until completed or discontinued by the requestor. There will be two fifteen minute breaks and up to a one hour lunch period for Elections staff.


The Registrar of Voters will provide for the security of the ballots. Any additional security measures will be provided at the discretion of the election official and included, if needed, as part of the cost of the recount.


Results of the recount will be released when the recount is completed. All ballots in the jurisdiction must be recounted and the outcome must change in order for the official results of the election to be re-certified.


Questions concerning the specifics of the recount, other than challenges, are to be routed through the spokesperson who will then direct the question to the designated election official present. Observers and spokespersons are not to direct questions to the members of the recount boards. Resolution of questions shall include representatives of all parties of interest.

How to Challenge

Ballots may be challenged for incompleteness, ambiguity, or other defects. To challenge a ballot the following procedure shall be used:

  • The person challenging shall state the reason for the challenge.
  • The recount board shall count the ballot as it deems proper, write a unique identifier number on the ballot and set it aside with a notation as to how it was counted, why it was challenged and by whom.

Resolution of Challenges

Challenges shall be resolved at the end of each day, or more often if necessary, at the challenge resolution table. The challenge resolution table may consist of the election official and/or designee, county counsel, and no more than two representatives from each party of interest. The determination of the election official at the challenge resolution table shall be final.

Election Official-Ordered Recounts (CA Elections Code Section 15610)

If no election contest is pending where a recount of the ballots in a precinct has been or will be ordered, the elections official may order that the ballots voted in the precinct be publicly recounted at no cost to parties of interest if both of the following apply:

  1. The elections official has reasonable cause to believe the ballots in the precinct have been miscounted, and —
  2. The elections official has examined, under oath, the precinct board members or, in the case of ballots counted by a central counting system, the counting board members, and they are unable to explain the returns of their respective precincts.


Number of Observers

There shall be no more than one observer per interested party on each side of the recount tables (positioned behind members of the recount board.)

Process

Observers are required to sign in at the front desk and receive a badge. Badges must be worn at all times while in the office.

Observer Rules

Observers must follow all rules established by the Registrar of Voters or they may be refused entry to the recount area. Observers may not sit at the recount tables and may not touch any ballots, tally sheets or other material of the recount boards. Observers may not place any material on the recount table. Talking is discouraged in the recount area except to challenge a ballot.