State Audit Laws Searchable Database

State Audit Laws - Iowa

This information was updated in May 2017.

State Summary:

On May 5, 2017, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed HF 516 into law. The omnibus election bill created a new section in the Iowa Election Code that directs the Secretary of State (the designated state commissioner of elections (Iowa Code Title II Chapter 41.1), with the cooperation of the county auditors (designated county commissioners of elections (Iowa Code Title II Chapter 41.1), to "conduct an audit of the official canvass of votes" after each general election. The language of the audit is found at Iowa Code Title 2 Chapter 43 Section 50.51, which is not yet available online but the text can be found in Section 43 of HF 516. The new Section includes language directing the state commissioner to adopt rules to implement the audit, which have not yet been created.

"The state commissioner shall determine the number of counties and precincts to be audited and shall select the precincts to be audited by lot." See See Iowa Code Title 2 Section 50.51(2).


Statutes specify that only designated observers can be present

Iowa's audit law states that "The hand count shall be observed by a representative selected by each of the two political parties whose candidates received the highest number of votes statewide in the preceding general election." See Iowa Code Title 2 Section 50.51(2). Other observers are not specifically prohibited from observing the audit. Iowa Code allows any member of the public to observe a recount or the regular canvass of ballots. "Recounts,like all canvasses of votes, are open to the public." See Iowa Administrative Code 721—26.106.

Voting Systems Used:

Paper ballot

Precinct-count optical scanners and ballot marking devices in each polling place. For details visit the Iowa page on The Verifier.


Statutes specify results are not binding

The Iowa audit law specifically indicates that "[t]he results of an audit conducted … shall not change the results, or invalidate the certification, of an election." See See Iowa Code Title 2 Section 50.51(4).

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

The Iowa audit law indicates that "[t[he absentee ballot and
special voters precinct for each county … shall be included with all other precincts of
the county for selection by lot." There is no specific mention of provisional ballots. See See Iowa Code Title 2 Section 50.51(2).

Additional Targeted Samples:

No statutory guidance for additional targeted samples

Contests and Issues Audited:

Federal election contests audited
Statewide election contests audited

The Iowa audit law calls for an audit only of the top race on the ballot, i.e. President or Governor (Iowa elects its Governor in mid-term years). "In every precinct selected, the commissioner shall conduct a hand count of all ballots cast in the preceding general election for president of the United States or governor, as the case may be. See See Iowa Code Title 2 Section 50.51(2).

Counting Method:

Hand count

Iowa Code Title 2 Section 50.51(2) calls for a hand count.

Oversight and Conduct of Audit: The audit is conducted by the Secretary of State, with the cooperation of county auditors. See See Iowa Code Title 2 Section 50.51(1).

Timeline for Audit: The is no specific timeline for the audit in the Iowa Code but the audit is to be completed and a report submitted no later than 20 days after the election. See Iowa Code Title 2 Section 50.51(3b). Further details may be adopted in the Iowa Administrative Rules.

Additional Resources:

Iowa Secretary of State
Iowa Code - Title II - Elections and Official Duties
Election Administrator's Handbook
Iowa Administrative Code: Secretary of State