All the ballots being tabulated and audited must be verifiably protected from loss, substitution, alteration or addition.
- To safeguard the ballots and audit records from loss and tampering, paper records and electronic records of the results are fully secured from the time the ballots are received by election authorities until all audit or recount activity is completed and election results are finalized.
- Compliance audits assess the trustworthiness of the paper trail. These compliance audits include ballot accounting to prevent the addition, subtraction, substitution, or alteration of ballots, polling place reconciliations (e.g., comparing counts of voters voting to ballots cast); reconciliation of other vote types (e.g., confirming that the number of absentee ballots received matches the total of absentee ballots counted and absentee ballots rejected); and reconciliation to ensure that all votes from all audit units are correctly summed in the election totals.
- The audit begins as soon as possible after the random selection of audit units, which commences as soon as feasible after election officials provide the data needed for the audit (see Transparency Best Practice 2). Timely auditing reduces concerns about ballot tampering.
- Ballot anonymity is preserved: once a ballot is accepted for tabulation, neither the ballot nor its tabulation can be matched to the voter who cast it.
- Any information (e.g., counts of ballots in batches scanned) taken from the vote-tabulating system is independently checked (e.g., by weighing ballot batches on a precision scale).
(Adapted from Principles and Best Practices for Post-Election Tabulation Audits, 2018)