State Audit Laws Searchable Database

State Audit Laws - Montana

This information was updated in September 2014 and reviewed in March 2017.

State Summary:

Montana's audit provisions became law in 2009. While audit results are binding on official results, they do not lead to a full recount. Audits are office-specific, and include statewide, federal, and legislative contests, as well as a statewide ballot measure. Montana's audit provisions are found in Montana Code §13-17-501-508.


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

The random selection of precincts must be public. See Mont. Code Ann. §13-17-505, "Selection process for random-sample audit," Subsection (2). Likewise, the audit itself is also public. See Mont. Code Ann. §13-17-506, "Conduct of random-sample audit," Subsection (1).

Montana's law also is very explicit that the results of the audit must be made public. See Mont. Code Ann. §13-17-507, "Discrepancies -- substitution of results -- examination of machines," Subsection (4). However, there is no mention in either the statutes or administrative rules of observer's ability to verify ballot marks at the audit.

Voting Systems Used:

Paper ballot

Optical scanners or hand counts with ballot marking devices statewide. For details visit the Montana page on The Verifier.


Audit results binding upon official results

See Mont. Code Ann. §13-17-507 (1).

Addressing Discrepancies and Continuing the Audit:

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

If the audit results show a discrepancy "of more than 0.5% of total ballots cast or five ballots, whichever is greater," a minimum of three additional precincts in that county must be audited, for whichever contest or issue for which the discrepancy was found. The audit cannot be expanded to a full recount, with the exception that if the contest in question is county-wide, and fewer than three additional precincts remain to be audited after the first level of escalation, all remaining precincts must be audited.

If either the initial or expanded audit results in a discrepancy of more than 0.5%, the vote counting machine involved in the discrepancy may not be used in another election until it had been examined and reapproved by the Secretary of State. See  MCA 13-17-507.

Montana requires the vendors of any voting systems that fail a manual audit to compensate the affected county for the costs of the audit and/or examining and re-certifying the machine. Such provisions are included in the contract with vendors at the time such systems are purchased. See Mont. Code Ann. §13-17-508.

Audit Comprehensiveness:

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

Montana's audit is "a random-sample audit of vote-counting machines." Audits are not conducted in those precincts using only hand-counted paper ballots. See Mont. Code Ann. §13-17-503, "Random-sample audit of vote-counting machines required -- rulemaking authority," Subsections (1) and (5).

Additional Targeted Samples:

No statutory guidance for additional targeted samples

Contests and Issues Audited:

Federal election contests audited
Predetermined election contests or ballot issues are audited
Primary elections audited
Randomly selected election contests or ballots issue are audited
Statewide election contests audited

Audits are conducted for a "federal election," which is defined as any general or primary election including a presidential or United States congressional election contest. See Mont. Code Ann. §13-1-101, "Definitions," Subsection (12).

Audits must include one statewide contest, one federal contest, one legislative contest, and one statewide ballot issue (if possible), though each particular contest is randomly selected. See Mont. Code Ann. §13-17-503 Subsection (3).

The statutes explicitly prohibit auditing contests regarding judicial retention or in which a candidate (for any office) is unopposed. See Mont. Code Ann. §13-17-503, Subsection (4).

Type of Audit Units:


For those counties using optical scan voting systems, the audit must be conducted for "at least 5% of the precincts in each county or a minimum of one precinct in each county, whichever is greater." See Mont. Code Ann. §13-17-503, Subsection (3)(a).

Counting Method:

Hand count

See Mont. Code Ann. §13-17-506, "Conduct of random-sample audit".

Oversight and Conduct of Audit: The Secretary of State oversees the audit. The audit is conducted by a county audit committee that is appointed by the county governing body. See Mont. Code Ann. §13-17-504,"County audit committee".

Timeline for Audit: The precincts to be audited must be chosen not more than seven days after the election, but no later than nine days after the election. See Mont. Code Ann. §13-17-505,"Selection process for random-sample audit," Subsection (1). The audit must be completed at least one day before the county canvass. See Mont. Code Ann. §13-17-506.

Additional Resources:

Montana Annotated Code - Title 13 - Elections
Montana Secretary of State