How do recounts work in Utah?

Nov 16, 2020, 10:25 AM | Updated: 11:08 am

utah recounts record ballots...

Michael Fife, Salt Lake County election coordinator, looks for valid postmarks on ballots at the Salt Lake County Government Center in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. The majority of ballots in this tray were postmarked too late. Photo: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Many state election results will be certified Tuesday, but what happens if a race is still really tight? Here are the rules around recounts in Utah.

Who can request a recount?

Per Utah state law, there are no automatic recounts.

“A candidate who loses an election can request a recount if the margin between the winning and losing candidate is .25% or one-quarter of one percent.” Utah’s Director of Elections Justin Lee tells KSL.

Unless the race is small enough that it has less than 400 total votes. Then, a difference of one vote would be in recount territory. For everyone else, the same rules apply whether you’re in a race for Congress or a school board seat.

“That’s why we have that percentage there it’s .25% for any race, for any candidate. If they’re within that margin they can request that recount.” Lee said.


How long do candidates have to request?

Candidates have seven days to request a recount from the day county clerks are finished canvassing ballots, which for most races is two weeks after Election Day, or Tuesday, November 17th. That deadline applies to races that are only in one county, like a state House or Senate seat. For multi-county, statewide, or congressional races, the deadline would be seven days from November 23rd since that’s when the state does their canvass.  The state has jurisdiction over any race that spans more than one county, like the race for Congress or Governor.

How does the actual recounting work?

Lee says the process is more or less the same as when they counted the first time.

“All of the ballots are run through the machines again.” Utah doesn’t do hand recounts.

“There’s not a hand recount done in place of the normal counting through the machines,” Lee said. “Really it’s just going through the same process one more time to make sure that nothing was missed or nothing changes.”

Who oversees a recount?

County clerks are in charge of overseeing the recount. Poll watchers allowed to be there to watch the counting process. There are also audits done of both the original and the recount.

“So there is a double check there,” Lee said. “But it’s not a vastly different process than the original count.”

Lee says Utah hasn’t seen a big multi-county or Congressional recount in recent memory.

“Where we do see some [races] maybe change is at a municipal level because you have a lot fewer people voting in those races, so there may be a change there. But in large scale races we don’t usually see any difference at all.”

What if the recount is different than the original?

Lee says the answer to this is rather simple.

“Whatever comes back from the recount is official.”

Who pays for a recount?

 It’s not the candidates who are on the hook for the cost of a recount, it’s the taxpayers.  

“It’s paid for by the government,” Lee said.

But Lee says Utah’s tight margin for recounts makes them rare.

“We haven’t really seen a real negative impact to elections administration or to additional costs from recounts.”



KSL’s continuing coverage on the 2020 Election.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson speaks at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. ...

Simone Seikaly

Utah Lt. Gov. extends filing deadline for unaffiliated presidential candidates

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson has agreed to extend the Utah filing deadline for unaffiliated presidential candidates to March 5, 2024.

12 hours ago

From left, Republican presidential candidates Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis and Vivek R...

Eric Bradner, Steve Contorno, Arit John and Daniel Strauss, CNN

Takeaways from the fourth Republican presidential debate

The explosive fourth Republican presidential debate Wednesday night made plain why former President Donald Trump has so far skipped the 2024 primary debate circuit.

1 day ago

FILE: Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks at a rally in Salt Lake City ...

Bridger Beal-Cvetco

RFK Jr. sues Utah lieutenant governor over filing deadline for presidential candidates

Kennedy's campaign argues the early deadline to file signatures violates his First Amendment and 14th Amendment rights.

1 day ago

FILE - Republican presidential candidates from left, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov....


How to watch the fourth Republican presidential debate

The two-hour debate will start at 8 p.m. Eastern Time Wednesday in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

2 days ago

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall speaks at an election night watch party for her reelection cam...

Carter Williams

Mendenhall takes heated Salt Lake mayoral race after Rocky throws in the towel

Mayor Mendenhall's office confirmed that former SLC Mayor Rocky Anderson, her primary challenger, called shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday to concede.

15 days ago

Celeste Maloy talks with Gov. Spencer Cox at an election night party at the Utah Trucking Associati...

Simone Seikaly

Congratulations for Maloy from Republicans and Democrats

Celeste Maloy has won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and is only the fifth woman in Utah history to do so.

16 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

How do recounts work in Utah?