How close does an election have to be to trigger an automatic recount?

An election recount is a process by which votes cast in an election are re-tabulated to verify the accuracy of the original results. 

Automatic recounts occur if election results meet certain criteria laid out in state law. The most common trigger for an automatic recount is when election results fall within a close vote margin. This margin might be either a percentage or a number of votes. If the results for a race fall within the threshold of a close vote margin, state law requires an automatic recount. Requirements for an automatic recount might differ based on the type or level of office.

As of the November 2020 election:

  • Eighteen states have at least one law requiring an automatic recount if a race’s results fall within a close vote margin.
  • Five states require an automatic recount only in the event of a tie vote.
  • Four states require automatic recounts, but not based on a particular vote threshold. Instead, an automatic recount is triggered if election officials discover errors or discrepancies in vote totals.
  • Twenty-three states do not require automatic recounts.

See a full list of State Recount procedures at

Information sourced from Ballotpedia.

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