State Audit Laws Searchable Database

State Audit Laws - District Of Columbia

This information was reviewed in March 2017.

State Summary:

The District of Columbia's audit legislation was signed into law as part of the Omnibus Election Reform Amendment Act of 2009 and became effective in 2010. Audits are binding on official results and can lead to a full recount.


Statutes require that audit results and data be made public
Statutes specify that audits must be conducted publicly
Statutes specify that observers can verify marks on the ballots

The audit is to be conducted publicly in such a way "that members of the public are able to verify that votes are correctly classified and tallied." See D.C. Code Ann. §1-1001.09(f). Results of the audit are to be made publicly available before the election is certified. In addition to the results, the Board of Elections must also identify and explain any discrepancies and describe what investigations or actions are underway based on the discrepancies. See D.C. Code Ann. §1-1001.09(j).

Voting Systems Used:

Paper ballot

Precinct-count optical scanners with ballot marking devices to provide accessibility. For details visit the District Of Columbia page on The Verifier.


Audit results binding upon official results

See D.C. Code Ann. §1-1001.09(i).

Addressing Discrepancies and Continuing the Audit:

Statutes specify criteria to expand the audit (up to a full recount)

D.C.'s audit law contains a three-stage escalation protocol:

Stage One: If a discrepancy is identified that is either greater than .25% or 20% of the margin of victory, whichever is less, a second audit of the same precincts is conducted.

Stage Two: If the second count confirms the discrepancy, an additional precinct in each ward in which the contest appears on the ballot will also be conducted. An additional 5% of centrally tabulated ballots is also audited.

Stage Three: If the expanded audit continues to find discrepancies (again, either greater than .25% or 20% of the margin of victory, whichever is less), then all ballots for the contest in question are to be manually recounted. See D.C. Code Ann. §1-1001.09(h).

Audit Comprehensiveness:

Absentee ballots included in audit
Early voted ballots included in audit
Provisional ballots included in audit

5% of centrally tabulated ballots, which includes absentee and early voted ballots, are to be audited. The law also specifies that special (that is, provisional) ballots are included in the audit. See D.C. Code Ann. §1-1001.09(c)(1)(B).

Additional Targeted Samples:

Election officials may choose additional targeted samples

 The Board may, in its discretion, audit additional precincts, voter-verifiable records or contests.  See D.C. Code Ann. §1-1001.09a(c)(c) and 3 DCMR 812.10.

Contests and Issues Audited:

Local election contests audited
Primary elections audited
Randomly selected election contests or ballots issue are audited

D.C. Code Ann. §1-1001.09(b) specifies that audits shall take place after " each primary, general, and special election."

A minimum of three contests are audited, and these must include at least one district-wide and at least two ward-wide contests. However, the specific contests are randomly selected.  See D.C. Code Ann. §1-1001.09(c)(2). In addition to the randomly selected three contests, the "Board shall select at least one additional contest" to be audited. See D.C. Code Ann. §1-1001.09(c)(2)&(3).  See also 3 DCMR 812.10.

Type of Audit Units:

Individual ballots

At least 5% of precincts using voting machines are randomly selected for the audit, as well as an additional 5% of votes counted centrally. See D.C. Code Ann. §1-1001.09(c)(1).

Counting Method:

Hand count

See D.C. Code Ann. §1-1001.09(g).

Oversight and Conduct of Audit: The Board of Election and Ethics both oversees and conducts the audit. The date of the audit must be announced (not commenced) no later than three business days after the initial canvass, and at least 24 hours before the audit begins. See D.C. Code Ann. §1-1001.09(e). Not only is the audit completed before certification, but the results must be made available for public review before certification as well. See D.C. Code Ann. §1-1001.09(j).

Additional Resources:

District of Columbia Board of Elections
District of Columbia Official Code - Title 1 - Chapter 10 - Elections
District of Columbia Municipal Regulations - Post-Election Manual Audit