Recount laws in New Jersey

Election recounts are an important part of ensuring the integrity and accuracy of election results. When vote margins are razor-thin or questions arise about the validity of results, candidates and voters often request recounts to verify outcomes. Understanding state laws governing recounts, like those in New Jersey, is crucial for exercising this essential safeguard of democratic elections.

Recount Laws in New Jersey

New Jersey has specific laws outlining when recounts can and must occur, who can request them, how they are conducted, and who pays for them. Key aspects of New Jersey recount laws are summarized below.

When Recounts are Required

Unlike some states, New Jersey does not require automatic recounts in close contests. The state leaves recounts to the discretion of candidates and voters.

Requesting a Recount

Candidate Requests

Candidates can request recounts within 17 days of an election if they suspect errors in the vote counting:

“When any candidate at any election shall have reason to believe that an error has been made in counting the votes of that election, the candidate may, within a period of 17 days following such election, apply to a judge of the Superior Court assigned to the county wherein such district or districts are located, for a recount of the votes cast at the election in any district or districts.”[1]

Voter Requests

Groups of 10 or more voters can likewise demand recounts within 17 days if they believe mistakes occurred in counting votes on ballot measures:

“When ten voters at any election shall have reason to believe that an error has been so made in counting the votes upon any public question at any election, such voters may, within a period of 17 days following such election, apply to a judge of the Superior Court assigned to the county wherein such district or districts are located, for a recount of the votes cast at the election in any district or districts on such public question.”[1]

Notably, New Jersey does not require a close margin or threshold for requesting recounts. Candidates and voters simply must suspect errors in the tabulation.

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Conducting a Recount

Automatic Recount Procedures

As mentioned, New Jersey has no automatic recount law.

Requested Recount Procedures

For requested recounts, the individuals seeking the recount must apply to a Superior Court judge in the relevant county within 17 days after the election.

The requester pays costs associated with the recount upfront. Costs are refunded if the recount changes the outcome or if the margin of votes changes by at least 10 votes or 10%, whichever is greater, in any district.[2]

State law does not mandate a deadline for completing requested recounts. The process timeline depends on local administrative factors.

Recount Costs and Refunds

The requester pays recount costs upfront but receives a refund if:

  • The recount changes the election outcome, or
  • The vote margin changes by at least 10 votes or 10% (whichever is greater) in any district.

This provides candidates and voters financial protection when requesting legitimate recounts.

Voting Equipment and Audits

Voting Machines

New Jersey uses direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines. These machines directly record votes electronically without paper records.

Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trails

The state’s DRE machines do not provide voter-verified paper audit trails (VVPATs). VVPATs allow voters to verify their selections on paper before casting electronic ballots. The paper trails can be used later to audit results if needed.

Without VVPATs, recounts rely solely on examining electronic vote data. This has motivated calls for New Jersey to implement VVPATs to reinforce the integrity of recounts and audits.[3]

Recount Laws in Other States

Automatic Recount States

Many states including Colorado, Florida, Ohio, and New Mexico require automatic recounts if victory margins meet certain thresholds (e.g. 0.5% of total votes cast).[4]

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Requested Recount States

Most states allow candidates and voters to request recounts like New Jersey does. Request deadlines, cost provisions, and completion timeframes vary. Some states make distinctions between types of elections (e.g. federal vs state) when outlining recount parameters.[4]

Conclusion

While New Jersey does not require automatic recounts, it allows generous provisions for requesting recounts—no margin or threshold is needed. The 17-day request window and financial protections also facilitate legitimate citizen-driven recounts. However, the reliance on DRE machines without VVPATs hinders recount transparency and security. As election integrity concerns mount nationwide, states like New Jersey may need to reassess voting protocols and recount procedures. Robust paper trails, thorough auditing mechanisms, and judicious recount laws help uphold free and fair elections.

FAQs

What triggers an automatic recount in New Jersey?

New Jersey does not require automatic recounts in any situation. Recounts are only initiated if requested.

How long do candidates have to request a recount in New Jersey?

Candidates have 17 days after the election to request a recount if they suspect errors in the vote tally.

Do voters in New Jersey have to pay for recounts they request?

Yes, voters must pay upfront but get a refund if the recount changes the election result or margins by a certain amount.

What voting equipment does New Jersey use?

New Jersey uses direct recording electronic (DRE) machines statewide. These do not generate voter-verified paper records.

Do all states allow requested recounts?

The vast majority of states permit candidates and voters to request recounts. However, requirements for margins, costs, and deadlines vary. Some states limit recount requests to only certain elections.

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