Audit Principles

  • Examination of Voter-Verifiable Paper Ballots: Audits require human examination of voter-marked paper ballots — the ground truth of the election. Votermarked paper ballots may be marked by hand or by ballot marking device. Audits cannot rely on scanned images or machine interpretations of the ballots to accurately reflect voter intent. Details
  • Transparency: Elections belong to the public. The public must be able to observe the audit and verify that it has been conducted correctly, without interfering with the process.  Details
  • Separation of Responsibilities: Neither the policy and regulation setting for the audit, nor the authority to judge whether an audit has satisfied those regulations, shall be solely in the hands of any entity directly involved with the tabulation of the ballots or the examination of ballots during the audit. Details
  • Ballot Protection: All the ballots being tabulated and audited must be verifiably protected from loss, substitution, alteration or addition. Details
  • Comprehensiveness: All jurisdictions and all validly cast ballots, including absentee, mail-in and accepted provisional ballots, must be taken into account. No contest should be excluded a priori from auditing, although some contests may be prioritized. Details
  • Appropriate Statistical Design: Audits should produce and scientifically assess evidence about tabulation accuracy while making efficient use of available resources. A risk-limiting audit (RLA) with a small risk limit assures a large chance that an incorrect outcome will be detected and corrected. Details
  • Responsiveness to Particular Circumstances: Audit processes must include a way to respond to circumstances that come to light affecting particular devices, ballots or contests. Details
  • Binding on Official Outcomes: Audits, including any full hand counts that result, must be completed in time to change official outcomes if hand counts so indicate. Details
  • Investigating Discrepancies and Promoting Continuous Improvement: The data gathered from post-election audits should be analyzed and used to continuously improve voting processes. Details

(From Principles and Best Practices for Post-Election Tabulation Audits, December 2018)