What Would a Recount Look Like? A 7-State-Breakdown of How the Process Would Work.

Vote counting

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By Giselle Balido

November 5, 2020

President Donald Trump has filed lawsuits and demanded that votes be recounted.  Here’s how seven key states would handle a repeat tabulation of the ballots.

As the road to the White House narrows for President Donald Trump and Democrat contender Joe Biden continues to show a clear advantage with 253 Electoral College votes to Trump’s 214, the incumbent’s camp has signaled its intent to challenge the results with a series of lawsuits and demands for recounts in key battleground states.

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But let’s face it, due to the contentious nature of this race, other states may also see recounts. Here’s how each would handle a repeat tabulation of the votes cast.


If the winning margin is within 0.5%, an automatic recount will be generated in Pennsylvania. It needs to be ordered by the secretary of state by a week from Thursday and would begin by the end of the month to be completed within six days.

No margin is required for a requested recount. In this case, three voters in a district can submit an affidavit alleging errors in totals by Sunday. In the event of multiple districts requesting recounts, requests must be made in individual districts.


No matter the margin, Wisconsin won’t hold recounts automatically. However, if the total vote is 4,000 or less, and they are trailing their opponent by 40 votes or fewer, candidates may request a recount. If more than 4,000 votes were cast, candidates may issue the request if they are 1% or less behind their opponent. Presidential candidates have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to request a recount. All other candidates have until Friday evening. Recounts must be completed within 13 days.


An automatic recount in Michigan will be prompted if the difference between two candidates is 2,000 votes or fewer. According to the state’s bureau of elections, as long as they provide specific allegations such as “fraud or mistake in the canvass of the votes,” candidates may request a recount without a margin requirement. Also, if a state Senate race is determined by 500 votes or fewer, or if a state House race is determined by 200 votes or fewer, a state party chair may request a recount, but they must adhere to the guidelines above. The deadline to request a recount is no later than Thursday night, 48 hours following completion of the canvass of votes.


A recount in Arizona is automatically set in motion if the margin is within .1% of the total number of votes. According to state statutes, a recount is also generated if the margin is 200 votes or fewer and the total is more than 25,000, or if the margin is 50 votes or fewer and the total doesn’t exceed 25,000. Recounts may not be requested and there is no set deadline for the completion of an automatic recount.


Although Georgia will not automatically recount votes, under certain conditions candidates and officials may request one. If the margin between candidates is less than, or equal to 0.5% of the total vote, a candidate may request a recount within two business days of results being certified. An election official, or Georgia’s secretary of state, may order a recount if they identify a discrepancy or error.


Nevada will not launch a recount automatically. However, the state allows defeated candidates in any election to request a recount. The deadline to request a recount is no later than three business days after the canvass of the vote.

North Carolina

Candidates in North Carolina may ask for a recount under certain conditions. In races governed by a county board of elections, candidates may petition a recount if the margin is within 1% of the total votes cast. However, the request needs to be made by the first business day after the canvass.

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