As Election Day turns into Election Week, all eyes in the country are now on a handful of states with razor thin vote margins. Votes continue to be counted in some of the states — Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania — while the AP recently called Wisconsin for Joe Biden, who has a 20,000-vote lead. In American politics, close elections often lead to recounts. Here's how each of these close states would handle such a situation: 

What You Need To Know

  • Votes are still be counted in a handful of close states

  • In some states, a thin margin of victory triggers an automatic recount

  • In other states, the recount must be requested by a candidate or voters

  • The Trump campaign has signaled its intention to request a recount in Wisconsin


With 95% of the vote in, President Donald Trump leads former Vice President Joe Biden by 82,000 votes in Georgia. But Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Wednesday that there’s around 240,000 ballots that remain uncounted. Many of those are from Democratic-leaning areas.

Georgia does not have an automatic recount law, but a recount can be requested if the final margin of a race is less than 0.5%. That would require a tightening of the race. As it currently stands, Trump’s lead has him up 2.2%


Ninety-six percent of the votes have been counted in Michigan and Biden leads Trump by just 37,000. That’s narrow, but not narrow enough to trigger an automatic recount, which takes place when the top vote-getter and their closest opponent are within 2,000 votes. 

A candidate can request a recount though if they "they possess a goodfaith belief that they would have had a reasonable chance of winning the election." That prevents someone like libertarian Jo Jorgensen, who currently has 1.1% of the vote in the state, from requesting a recount. Once a candidate has requested a recount, they must pay the cost of conducting it. Their money is refunded if the outcome of the election changes. The petition for a recount must be submitted 48 hours after completion of the initial vote canvas. 


A candidate can request a recount in Nevada regardless of a race’s margin. In 2016, Independent candidate Rocky De La Fuente requested and paid for a recount in a handful of the state’s counties despite finishing with less than 1% of the vote total.

With 67% of the vote reported by the AP, Biden is currently leading the race in Nevada by fewer than 8,000 votes. A recount request must be made within three business days of the completion of the canvas. The option to request a recount is also available to any voter in Nevada, provided they make the request in that three-day window and pay for the cost of the recount. 

North Carolina

Though Trump currently has a 77,000 vote lead in North Carolina, there are still 200,000 outstanding mail-in ballots to count, according to the AP. The gap will need to narrow in order for Biden to request a recount, if he so chooses. North Carolina law stipulates that a candidate in a statewide race can request a recount if the margin is 10,000 votes or 0.5% of the votes cast, whichever is less. The state covers the cost of the recount.


With only 64% of the vote counted, Pennsylvania still has 1.5 million ballots to tally and many of them were mailed in. That means Biden could make up the nearly 450,000 deficit he currently has in the race for the state’s 20 electoral votes.

He’ll have to close the gap to within 0.5% (it’s currently at 7.8%) in order to trigger an automatic recount. Candidates cannot request a recount themselves, but three voters in an election district can request a recount if they swear by affidavit that an “error” has been committed in the counting of ballots. 


If the margin of a completed election in Wisconsin is 1% or less, the losing candidate can request a recount. With 95% of the state now reporting, and the AP calling the state for Biden, the margin stands at 0.7%. On Wednesday, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement that there have been “reports of irregularities in several Wisconsin counties which raise serious doubts about the validity of the results. The president is well within the threshold to request a recount and we will immediately do so.”

The Trump campaign will be required to foot the bill for the recount unless the margin comes under 0.25%.