Missouri Recount Laws

This information was updated March 2014 using the August 28, 2013 version of the Missouri Revised Statutes (MRS).

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. Instructions for the counting method to be used in court-ordered recounts for general elections as well as for candidate-initiated and voter-initiated recounts can be found in MRS 115.585. Though these instructions are contained in separate statutes, the counting method for all of them is the same.

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. The statutes offer no guidance on the counting method used for recounts initiated by election officials under MRS 115.600.

Initiating Mechanism: 

Close-vote margin
Candidate-initiated
Voter-initiated
Election official-initiated
Court-or
dered 

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 on the part of the election authority, election judges or any election personnel in the conduct of the election. See MRS 115.600.

Timing: We found no timing requirement in the Missouri statutes specific to recounts requested by election officials.

Court-Ordered Recounts
Candidates contesting an election in Missouri also initiate recount proceedings, be it indirectly. Missouri statutes require 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 MRS 115.537 and 115.539.

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 MRS 115.583. All statewide contests for 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 MRS 115.555. 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 MRS 115.563.

Timing: See MRS 115.577.

Close Vote Margin: 

Varies by election contest

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 “shall have a right to a recount.” See MRS 115.601(1). For candidates or ballot questions that were original filed with the secretary of state the close-vote margin is 0.5%.  See MRS 115.601(3). 

Candidates and voters must first request or petition for a recount. Where the candidate filed or the ballot question was originally filed with the secretary of state, these recounts are initiated by filing a request with the secretary of state. See MRS 115.601(3).  Where the candidate filed or the ballot question was originally filed with other election authorities, these recounts are initiated by petition to the appropriate court. See MRS 115.601(2).  

Timing: See MRS 115.601(2) and 115.601(3)

Candidate-Initiated Options: 

Contested election

Any candidate for election to any office may challenge the correctness of the returns for the office charging that irregularities occurred in the election. See MRS 115.553.  These election contests are initiated by petition to the appropriate court or legislative body (See MRS 115.531, 115.555, 115.563 and 115.575). If the court or legislative body hearing a contest finds there is sufficient evidence showing irregularities which would place the result of any contested election in doubt, the court or legislative body shall order a recount of all votes brought in question by the petition or its answer. See MRS 115.583.

Timing: See MRS 115.531 and 115.577.

Voter-Initiated Options: 

Voters may request recounts for initiatives/questions

The result of any election on any question may be contested by one or more registered voters from the area in which the election was held. See MRS 115.553.  These contests are initiated by petition to the appropriate court (MRS 115.555 and 115.575). If the court hearing a contest finds there is a sufficient evidence showing irregularities which would place the result of any contested election in doubt, the court or legislative body shall order a recount of all votes brought in question by the petition or its answer. See MRS 115.583.

Timing: See MRS 115.577.

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 MRS 115.547 and 115.591. 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 MRS115.547 and 115.591. 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: 

For close-vote margin recounts initiated under MRS 115.601(3) no one other than the Secretary of State, the 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 MRS 115.601(4)

For any recount ordered under MRS 115.539  (circuit-court-ordered recounts), no one other than the election authority, representatives of the court, the contestant and contestee, their attorneys, and those specifically appointed by the court to assist with the recount shall be present during any recount.  See MRS 115.543

Rules for Determining Voter Intent: 

Statutory guidance provided

Statutory guidance on determining voter intent, and defining a valid vote, can be found in MRS 115.456. Further guidance is provided in the Code of State Regulations, Title 15, “Elected Officials,” Chapter 9, “Uniform Counting Standards.