Missouri Recount Laws

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

Voting System Used: 

Mixed paper ballot and DREs with VVPAT

For more details, visit Verified Voting.

Counting Method: 

Mix of recount, retabulation and electronic review Counting method chosen by election official Instructions for the counting method to be used in court-ordered recounts for primary elections can be found in the Missouri Revised Statutes, Title IX, “Suffrage and Elections,” Section 115.541, “Recount, primary election, irregularities in election—how conducted”: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C100-199/1150000541.HTM. Instructions for the counting method to be used in court-ordered recounts for general elections as well as for candidate-initiated recounts can be found in Section 115.585, “Recounts, how conducted”: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C100-199/1150000585.HTM. Though these instructions are contained in separate statutes, the counting method for all recounts is the same, regardless of their initiating mechanism. For votes cast on paper ballots, the votes are to be recounted by hand. For votes cast on paper ballot cards tabulated by optical scanners, the court can order either a retabulation or a recount. For votes cast on direct-recording electronic machines (DREs) with a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT), the court may order either an electronic review or a hand count. During retabulations, election officials separate those ballots with clear marks, to be retabulated by machine, and those without clear marks, to be counted by hand.

Initiating Mechanism: 

Candidate-initiated Voter-initiated Election official-initiated Court-ordered Recounts in Missouri are addressed in the state Election Code’s section on election contests. This gives the courts a larger role in the recount process, but can make it difficult to distinguish completely between court-ordered and candidate-initiated recounts, as the court must approve each recount even though an election contest must also be initiated by a candidate. Hence, while we have included Missouri as one of the states with court-ordered recounts, we have included that information under “Candidate-Initiated Options” below. For while the necessity of the recount is left up to the court's discretion, the candidate must initiate the election contest proceedings before the court can order a recount. Election Official-Initiated Recounts: Election authorities may petition the circuit court for a recount if they believe there to be “errors of omission or commission” that have occurred during the conduct of the election. See Section 115.600, “Recount or new election, procedure—petition by election authority”: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C100-199/1150000600.HTM. Timing: We found no timing requirement in the Missouri statutes specific to recounts requested by election officials.

Close Vote Margin: 

N/A While Missouri election law contains statutes that would appear to refer to recounts initiated by a close vote margin (see for instance, Section 115.601, “Recount authorized when less than one percent difference in vote—recount, defined”), such statutes require that candidates must file a petition in order for the recount process to begin. Election authorities do not automatically take action, but instead must wait for a candidate requests a recount. We have thus not included states such as Missouri in the “Close Vote Margin” category, but instead provided those details under “Candidate-Initiated Recounts,” below, where one can note that a close vote margin is required in order for a candidate to file a recount request.

Candidate-Initiated Options: 

Close vote margin required Contested election Candidate-Initiated Recounts With a Close Vote Margin Requirement “Any contestant in a primary or other election contest,” as well as “any person whose position on a question” is defeated by less than one percent of the votes cast on the office or question may petition for a recount. If the ballot question or candidate was initially filed with a county clerk or board of election commissioners, the recount request must be filed with the appropriate court, following the guidelines for an election contest. If initially filed with the Secretary of State, the recount request must also be filed with the Secretary of State, who will authorize the election authorities to conduct a recount outside the bounds of an election contest. See Section 115.601, “Recount authorized when less than one percent difference in vote—recount, defined”: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C100-199/1150000601.HTM. Timing: Requests for recounts must be filed not later than seven days after certification of the election. The Secretary of State must conduct and certify the results of the recount within twenty days of the filing of the recount request. Election Contests and Court-Ordered Recounts Candidates initiating an election contest in Missouri also initiate recount proceedings, be it indirectly. Missouri statute requires that “a preliminary hearing shall be held to determine whether there shall be a recount and not to determine what the recount would show.” As the court may determine that a recount is not necessary, initiating contest proceedings does not guarantee a candidate that there will be a recount, but if the court finds there to be evidence of “irregularities which place the result of any contested election in doubt” they must “order a recount of all votes brought in question by the petition or its answer.” For primary elections, the law requires an actual hearing on the necessity of a recount, to be conducted “not later than five days” after the contest is initiated. See the Missouri Revised Statutes, Title IX, “Suffrage and Elections,” Section 115.537, “Hearing on necessity for recount, when”: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C100-199/1150000537.HTM. See also Section 115.539, “Circuit court to order recount of votes, when”: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C100-199/1150000539.HTM. For general elections, there is not a separate statute requiring a hearing, but the same instruction for the court to order a recount if irregularities are found. See Section 115.583, “Recount of votes ordered, when”: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C100-199/1150000583.HTM. All statewide contests, for both offices, constitutional amendments, “state statutes submitted or referred to the voters,” and “questions relating to the retention of appellate and circuit judges,” are to be handled by the Missouri Supreme Court. See Section 115.555, “Contest of state office election to be heard by supreme court”: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C100-199/1150000555.HTM. The only exception is that contests for offices in the house and senate are to be heard not by the court but by the respective legislative body. See Section 115.563, “Contests for office of senator or representative to be heard by respective body”: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C100-199/1150000563.HTM. Timing: Contests must be filed within thirty days after the official announcement of the election results. See Section 115.577, “Time in which election contest may be filed”: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C100-199/1150000577.HTM.

Voter-Initiated Options: 

Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions The Missouri Election Code states that “any person whose position on a question” is defeated by less than one percent of the votes cast on the office or question may petition for a recount. Please note that the law does not specify that the person must be the same person who filed the position on the question. If the ballot question was initially filed with a county clerk or board of election commissioners, the recount request must be filed with the appropriate court, following the guidelines for an election contest. If initially filed with the Secretary of State, the recount request must also be filed with the Secretary of State, who will authorize the election authorities to conduct a recount outside the bounds of an election contest. See Section 115.601, “Recount authorized when less than one percent difference in vote—recount, defined”: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C100-199/1150000601.HTM. Furthermore, any registered voter may contest the results of an election on any question voted upon in their area. See Section 115-553, “Candidate may challenge returns—registered voter of area may contest result”: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C100-199/1150000553.HTM. As with candidate-initiated recounts, contest proceedings do not guarantee a recount, but the court is required to order a recount if it “finds there is a prima facie showing of irregularities which place the result of any contested election in doubt.” See Section 115.583, “Recount of votes ordered, when”: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C100-199/1150000583.HTM. Timing: Requests for recounts must be filed not later than seven days after certification of the election. The Secretary of State must conduct and certify the results of the recount within twenty days of the filing of the recount request. Contests must be filed within thirty days after the official announcement of the election results. See Section 115.577, “Time in which election contest may be filed”: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C100-199/1150000577.HTM.

Cost for Candidate-Initiated Recounts: 

Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount No statutory guidance provided For recounts conducted at the order of the court during an election contest, contestants may be required to post a bond, and “the costs and expenses of any election contest, including the cost and expense of a recount, may be adjudged against the unsuccessful party.” See Section 115.547, “Contestant to post bond, when”: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C100-199/1150000547.HTM. See also Section 115.591, “Contestant to post bond, when”: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C100-199/1150000591.HTM. For recounts initiated by a candidate with the Secretary of State where the vote margin is less than one percent, there is no mention in the pertinent statute of the costs of the recount, and if they are to be borne by the state or by the initiator.

Cost for Voter-Initiated Recounts: 

Initiator pays deposit or bond before recount No statutory guidance provided For recounts conducted at the order of the court during an election contest, contestants may be required to post a bond, and “the costs and expenses of any election contest, including the cost and expense of a recount, may be adjudged against the unsuccessful party.” See Section 115.547, “Contestant to post bond, when”: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C100-199/1150000547.HTM. See also Section 115.591, “Contestant to post bond, when”: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C100-199/1150000591.HTM. For recounts initiated on a question where the vote margin is less than one percent, there is no mention in the pertinent statute of the costs of the recount, and if they are to be borne by the state or by the initiator.

Challengers and Observers: 

No statutory guidance for recount observers No statutory guidance for recount challengers Missouri's statutes are very clear that no one other than the Secretary of State and election authorities, those appointed to help with the recount, and the contestants and their attorneys (only one attorney may be present for each) may be present during the recount. See Section 115.601, Subsection (4), and Section 115.543, “Court to appoint persons making recount—persons authorized to be present during recount”: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C100-199/1150000543.HTM.

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Statutory guidance provided Statutory guidance on determining voter intent, and defining a valid vote, can be found in Section 115.456, “Responsibilities of election authority, counting punch card ballots—counting optical scan ballots—counting paper ballots—write-in stickers—marks indicating political party preference, how construed”: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C100-199/1150000456.HTM. Further guidance is provided in the Code of State Regulations, Title 15, “Election Officials,” Chapter 9, “Uniform Counting Standards.” Title 15 is available to download as a PDF at: http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/laws/csr_15_pgs_179-231.pdf.