Colorado Recount Laws

This information was initially released on October 21, 2010 and updated in October 2012.

Note: The website hosting Colorado's Revised Statutes does not allow for us to link to individual statutes or sections. The index for and links to all statutes cited below can be found at: http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/colorado/.  Click on "Colorado Revised Statutes," "Title 1, Elections," then "General, Primary and Congressional Vacancy Elections."

Voting System Used: 

Mixed paper ballot and DREs with and without VVPAT

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method: 

Required hand count of a sample of ballots in addition to other counting methods
Mix of recount, retabulation and electronic review

The canvassing board is required to test voting machines before a recount and to count a number of ballots by hand to see if there is any discrepancy between hand and machine counts. If there is not, or if a discrepancy is detected but it is determined that it is due to voter error the original equipment may be used for the recount, resulting in a mix of hand recounting, machine retabulation, and electronic review to be used in different precincts across the state.

If there is a discrepancy between hand and machine counts during the test of voting machines the paper ballots or voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) it is up to the Secretary of State to decide which method of recount is to be used based on the "secretary's determination of which method will ensure the most accurate count." See the Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 1, Article 10.5, Section 102, Subsection (3). Please note that despite these provisions, as some jurisdictions in Colorado currently use direct-recording electronic machines (DREs) without a VVPAT, for these jurisdictions at most an electronic review is possible.

Initiating Mechanism: 

Close vote margin
Candidate-initiated

Note:  While election officials can't initiate recounts in Colorado, “the governing body that referred a ballot question or ballot issue to the electorate” may request a recount, even when the vote margin is not close enough to require the recount.  

Close Vote Margin: 

Less than or equal to 0.5%

Colorado uses a method to calculate their close vote margin that differs slightly from many states. The difference in votes received by the apparent winning and runner-up candidates is not divided by the total vote, the total votes cast for the respective office, or the total votes received by the top two candidates. Rather, the difference is divided by the number of votes received by the apparent winning candidate.

The law also clarifies the close vote margin for election contests in which more than one candidate is to be elected. In this case, the margin is calculated by dividing the difference between “the candidate who won the election with the least votes and the candidate who lost the election with the most votes,” divided by the votes cast for “the candidate who won the election with the least votes.” No matter the office and method of calculation, the margin is “less than or equal to 0.5%.” No restrictions are listed regarding the type of election for which the close vote margin applies. See Article 10.5, Section 101, “Recounts required – expenses.” “Political subdivisions” other than the state have the ability to waive the recount requirement for ballot issues and questions they referred to the ballot. See Section 103, “Recount for other offices, ballot issues, and ballot questions in an election coordinated by the county clerk and recorder.”

Timing: Recounts for congressional, state, and district offices, state ballot questions, and state ballot issues see Section 102, Subsections (1) and (2). Recounts for contests and questions under county jurisdicttion see Section 103.  Recounts for nonpartisan elections not coordinated by the county clerk and recorder see Section 104.

Candidate-Initiated Options: 

Party official may petition for candidate

The rules for inititiating a recount are the same for candidates, political parties and designated representatives of ballot measures. See Chapter 10.5, Section 106 (1), “Request for recount by interested party – definitions.”  The timing is discussed in 106 (2). 

Voter-Initiated Options: 

N/A

Recounts for issues and questions in Colorado are not requested by voters at large, but only by those who originally served as designated representatives when the petition for the question or issue was circulated. See Article 10.5, Section 106, as well as Article 40, Section 113, “Form – representatives of signers.” Such representatives qualify as “interested parties” and may request recounts in accordance with the rules set out for candidate-initiated recounts.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount
Payer of costs depends on outcome of recount

Costs are not determined before the election but estimated before the recount by the respective election official with whom the candidate has filed their recount request. The candidate must pay the full amount of this estimate before the recount begins. All funds are returned to the initiating party if the election results are reversed in their favor, or if they are sufficiently changed such that a close vote margin recount would have been warranted. See Article 10.5, Section 106, Subsection (2).

Challengers and Observers: 

Party/candidate or initiator has statutory authority to appoint observers
No statutory guidance for recount challengers

Political parties, candidates, and those sponsoring issues and questions are allowed to have designated “watchers” during the initial counting process, but the statutes do not clarify if such watchers are also allowed during recounts. See Article 7, Sections 105, 106, and 107. The Secretary of State's regulations, however, clarify that watchers may also be present at recounts. See Rule 8, “Rules Concerning Watchers,” Subsection 8.11. This rule also clearly states that political party attorneys are not allowed into counting locations unless formally registered as a watcher. See Rule 8, Subsection 8.3. Neither the state statutes or rules grant watchers the ability to challenge ballots. However, those initiating a recount may challenge the entire process in the appropriate district court. See Article 10.5, Section 109, “Challenge of recount.” We found no statute requiring that the recount be conducted publicly. If you know of relevant laws or rules for this state regarding any of these issues, please email info@ceimn.org. For the initial counting process, Colorado in fact specifies that “no persons” besides election judges and watchers be allowed into the location where counting takes place. See Article 7, Section 307, “Method of counting paper ballots.” However, rules allowing for media presence are given in Rule 8, Subsections 8.11 an 8.12.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Statutory guidance provided

Colorado provides some guidance on interpreting the validity of improperly made voter marks in Article 7, Section 309, “Determination of improperly marked ballots” and Section 508, “Determination of improperly marked ballots.”