State Audit Laws Searchable Database

State Audit Laws - Colorado

This information was updated in November 2017.

State Summary:

Colorado's audit law, Colo. Rev. Stat. §1-7-514, was signed into law in 2005. Audits are conducted for all races and completed before certification, but there is no mechanism for audits to lead to full a recount.

In 2009, the legislature passed a law that became Colo. Rev. Stat. §1-7-515 authorizing the Secretary of State to develop regulations for risk-limiting audits, to pilot such audits in select counties prior to 2014, and to aid all counties in preparing for timely implementation. 

In 2013, the Colorado legislature passed The Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act, which required that, beginning with the 2017 election, each county must begin using risk-limiting audits following each primary, general, coordinated, and congressional vacancy elections, as well as any other elections determined by the secretary of state. See Colo. Rev. Stat. §1-7-515.

In 2017 the Secretary of State's office convened a working group including auditing experts from the Election Verification Network (EVN), experienced election administrators from five counties, and representatives from voting system vendors, establishing the Risk-Limiting Audit Representative Group. The group helped the SoS establish official rules for how risk-limiting audits will be conducted, beginning with the 2017 elections. For more information visit The Colorado Risk-Limiting Audit Project (CORLA). The result was Rule 25.


No statutory guidance allowing observers to verify ballot marks
No statutory requirement that audits be conducted publicly
Statutes require that audit results and data be made public

The Secretary of State is to post reports from the audit to the official website. See Colo. Rev. Stat. §1-7-514, "Random Audit," Subsection (3). Here is an example.

Colo. Rev. Stat. §1-7-514, Subsection (4) states the audit "shall be observed by at least two members of the canvass board of the county." Rules regarding election observers can be found in Chapter 1505 of the Colorado Code of Regulations, under Rule 8, "Rules Concerning Watchers" but there is no mention of duties or restrictions for audit observers. Statutory requirements of watchers are provided in Colo. Rev. Stat. §1-7-108 (Subsection 3). "Each watcher shall have the right to maintain a list of eligible electors who have voted, to witness and verify each step in the conduct of the election from prior to the opening of the polls through the completion of the count and announcement of the results, to challenge ineligible electors, and to assist in the correction of discrepancies."

While no specific statute or SOS rule allows audit observers to verify ballot marks, in October 2012 SOS guidelines were issued to county clerks to request the following:

"The six foot rule only applies in the voting area, while the voter is present for the purpose of voting. For all other activities in the conduct of elections or a recount watchers must be permitted to witness and verify election activities.  This means a watcher must be permitted access that would allow them to attest to the accuracy of election-related activities. This includes personal visual access at a reasonable proximity to read documents, writings or electronic screens and reasonable proximity to hear election-related discussions. These activities include, but are not limited to:

- Witnessing the signature verification of mail envelopes at close enough distance to verify or challenge the signature

- Witnessing the duplication of ballots to verify accuracy of voter intent.

- Observing the tabulation process or display screens of voting equipment at any time that the voter is not in the immediate voting area for purposes of voting or casting his ballot.

- Witnessing hand count tabulations as they are being conducted.

- Visual access to all documents and materials during the logic and accuracy testing and post-election audit."

Voting Systems Used:

Mixed paper ballot and DREs with VVPAT

Beginning in 2016, all elections in Colorado are by mail ballot, tabulated centrally by optical scanners. In addition, each county provides one or more vote centers to facilitate "in person absentee" voting on election day and to offer accessible equipment for voters with disabilities. Some vote centers used DREs with VVPAT and others used paper ballot systems with ballot marking devices. For details visit the Colorado page on The Verifier.


No statutory guidance whether audit results are binding on official results

Addressing Discrepancies and Continuing the Audit:

Statutes specify use of a risk-limiting audit

Beginning in 2017 Colorado counties will perform risk-limiting audits after each election. Their statutes define "risk-limiting"as "an audit protocol that makes use of statistical methods and is designed to limit to acceptable levels the risk of certifying a preliminary election outcome that constitutes an incorrect outcome." Incorrect outcome" means an outcome that is inconsistent with the election outcome that would be obtained by conducting a full recount." See Colo. Rev. Stat. §1-7-515, Subsection (5)(b).

Discrepancies are not addressed through a systematic expansion of the audit, but instead, "the county clerk and recorder, in consultation with the canvass board of the county established pursuant to Section 1-10-101, shall investigate the discrepancy and shall take such remedial action as necessary in accordance with its powers under this title." Colo. Rev. Stat. §1-7-514, Subsection (2).

Audit Comprehensiveness:

Absentee ballots included in audit
No statutory guidance for ballots counted by hand on election day to be included in audit
No statutory guidance for either early, absentee or provisional ballots

Mail ballots (previously known as "absentee"): "Where a central count voting device is in use in the county, the rules promulgated by the secretary ... shall require an audit of a specified percentage of ballots counted within the county." Rule (click to Block 3): " the designated election official shall randomly select five (5) percent but not more than five hundred (500) ballots of all the ballots counted on the specific audited device."  Click here for a pdf file of rule 11.

Additional Targeted Samples:

No statutory guidance for additional targeted samples

Contests and Issues Audited:

Every contest and ballot issue voted on the ballot is audited
Federal election contests audited
Local election contests audited
Statewide election contests audited

Colo. Rev. Stat. §1-7-514, Subsection (5)(d) instructs the Secretary of State to develop rules for "An audit of the voting on each office, ballot issue, and ballot question in the election."

Type of Audit Units:

Individual ballots

Colo. Rev. Stat. §1-7-514, Subsection (1)(a) states that "not less than five percent of the voting devices used in each county" shall be randomly selected for the manual audit.

For counties where "a central count voting device is in use," the Secretary of State is to develop rules regarding what specified percentage of ballots are to be counted.  According to  Rule "the designated election official shall randomly select five (5) percent but not more than five hundred (500) ballots of all the ballots counted on the specific audited device. If the amount of ballots is less than five hundred (500) ..  on the audited device, then a minimum of twenty percent (20%) of the ballots counted on the device will be manually verified" (manually counted.)

Counting Method:

Mix of machine and hand count

Colorado's statutes specify that the audit is a manual audit ("the secretary of state shall publicly initiate a manual random audit," Colo. Rev. Stat. §1-7-514, Subsection (1). The regulations posted by the Secretary of State allow for some ballots to be audited via post election new machine counts compared to manual counts. Rule states that votes counted on optical scanners used in central counting locations "shall be recounted on the voting device" and then counted by hand. See also Rule regarding additional auditing of DREs. (this applies to the 2005 audit law, not the new risk-limiting audits that will go into effect by 2014.)

Oversight and Conduct of Audit: The audit is overseen by the Secretary of State while the audit is conducted by county election officials. The selection of the audit sample is conducted at the Secretary of State's office. See Colo. Rev. Stat. §1-7-514, Subsection (1).

Timeline for Audit: The random selection of machines to test is currently scheduled to happen "within forty-eight (48) hours of the close of polls".  See SOS Rule, "Post-Election Audit".  A report of the audit must be posted not later than five business days after receipt by SOS office. Colo. Rev. Stat. §1-7-514, Section 3.

Additional Resources:

Colorado Secretary of State - Elections
Colorado Revised Statutes - Title 1 - Elections (pdf)
Colorado Risk Limiting Audit Project
Colorado Secretary of State Risk-Limiting Audit Representative Group (2017)
Colorado Secretary of State Election Rules [8 CCR 1505-1] Rule 11