Earlier today, Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein announced that she plans on filing paperwork to have recounts in three of the “swing states” – Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.  In addition, the still “unresolved” North Carolina Governor’s race looks like it is headed toward a recount, this topic is getting a lot of buzz across social media.  

Since we’ve received some questions, we wanted to put together a quick primer to help share some basic facts about what may happen next.

What a recount is

A recount is a retabulation of the votes cast in an election.  The broadness of this definition is based on the differences found across States in how they administer recounts for contests for State and Federal elections. In general, a recount is conducted for a particular race or measure to confirm the result of the vote canvass. Furthermore, each State has its own laws regarding what may trigger a recount, and they usually fall within the following general categories:

  • candidate initiated
  • voter initiated
  • closeness of an election (results are within a specified vote margin requiring an automatic recount)
  • automatic (required by law regardless of vote margin)

(source: Quick Start Guide: Conducting a Recount)

Oh, it’s also a great way to find out how many people voted for Lizard People.

What a recount isn’t

  • It isn’t a revote.  
  • It isn’t only counting the votes of one candidate.  
  • It isn’t guaranteed to change results.

What is going to happen? When will we know?

Each state has it’s own process and rules for how exactly the recount takes place.  Since each state involves millions of votes, the recount(s) will likely take weeks.