Legislation FAQ

What are the tabulation audit laws in my state? How do they compare to laws in other states?
Is an Audit the Same as a Recount?
Tabulation audits differ from recounts. Tabulation audits routinely check voting system performance. Recounts repeat ballot counting in special circumstances, such as when preliminary results show a close margin of victory. Post-election audits that detect errors can lead to a full recount if the margin of victory is very small or if the audit detects errors and therefore cannot achieve the risk-limit.
What needs to be included in good audit legislation?
Good risk-limiting audit requirements can be enacted in relatively simple legislation (or the equivalent) that does the following (adapted slightly from Risk-Limiting Post-Election Audits: Why and How):

  • Defines a risk-limiting audit
  • Says which election contests should be subject to risk-limiting audits, or how these contests should be chosen
  • Determines how and when to set the risk limit — the maximum chance that auditing a contest with an incorrect outcome will not lead to a full hand count.
  • Sets the time frame for completing risk-limiting audits
  • Establishes or requires procedures for checking the integrity of the audit trail, randomly selecting the audit sample, facilitating public observation, reporting audit results, and other aspects of the audit. (Post-election audit provisions should be harmonized with existing provisions for recounts and other ways of contesting or correcting election results. For instance, it may be appropriate to adjust the time frame for recounts, and/or to require full hand recounts in very close contests in lieu of auditing those contests.) Most audit implementation details can be established in regulations and/or written procedures, subject to public comment and made available to the public. Omitting implementation details from the legislation can facilitate improvements in risk-limiting audit procedures based on experience, new equipment, and other changed circumstances.

See also Best Practices for Post-Election Tabulation Audits.

Are risk-limiting audits the only option?
No one model for tabulation audits is best for all states and all types of contests. Election traditions, laws, administrative structure and voting systems vary widely. Nonetheless, there are guiding principles that apply across all states. In any particular jurisdiction there may be barriers to the immediate implementation of audits that satisfy all these principles. Best-effort tabulation audits should be performed even if the deployed technology does not support optimal audits, or even if the laws do not permit optimal remedies.
How can the cost of post-election audits be contained?
Recent experience shows RLAs are cost-effective. RLAs can reduce overall audit burden by allocating more resources to closer contests where more checking is needed to validate outcomes. Enabling and encouraging pilot risk-limiting audits allows election agencies to work out details and identify necessary improvements in equipment and processes.