State Audit Laws Searchable Database

State Audit Laws - North Carolina

This information was updated in March 2017.

State Summary:

Signed into law in 2005, North Carolina's audit law requires that only one election contest per election be audited. It is one of only a handful of states that requires that the size of the audit sample be chosen in consultation with a statistician to ensure that the sample is statistically significant for the given election. The audit results are binding upon the official election results and may lead to a full manual recount. Unless otherwise noted, all information below comes from the N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. §163-182.1(b)(1).


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

North Carolina regulations and statutes do not require public audits; however, audits are by practice open to the public. Chapter 3 of the NC Elections Uniformity Project Report (pdf) states that "Observers may witness the vote counting, but cannot interfere."

Voting Systems Used:

Mixed paper ballot and DREs with VVPAT

North Carolina counties use either precinct-count optical scanners or DREs with VVPAT as their primary voting systems. For details visit the North Carolina page on The Verifier.


Audit results binding upon official results

Addressing Discrepancies and Continuing the Audit:

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

The audit law states that "In the event of a material discrepancy between the electronic or mechanical count and a hand-to-eye count, the hand-to-eye count shall control, except where paper ballots or records have been lost or destroyed or where there is another reasonable basis to conclude that the hand-to-eye count is not the true count. If the discrepancy between the hand-to-eye count and the mechanical or electronic count is significant, a complete hand-to-eye count shall be conducted." See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. §163-182.1(b)(1).

Audit Comprehensiveness:

Absentee ballots included in audit
Ballots counted by hand on election day included in the audit
Early voted ballots included in audit

Currently, North Carolina's audit statute requires that the audit is to be of the "paper ballots and paper records," and specifies that, in the randomly selected precincts, all mailed absentee ballots and at least some early voting ballots must be included. Although the audit does currently include VVPATS from DREs, after January 1, 2018, DRE touch screen voting systems will no longer be certified for use in the state and references to "paper records" will be removed from the audit statute. See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. §163.182.1.

Additional Targeted Samples:

No statutory guidance for additional targeted samples

Contests and Issues Audited:

Federal election contests audited
Local election contests audited
Predetermined election contests or ballot issues are audited
Primary elections audited
Statewide election contests audited

Only one statewide ballot item is audited per county, unless it is a presidential election, in which case the presidential contest is the item audited. If there is no statewide or presidential ballot item, the State Board is required to "provide a process for selecting district or local ballot items to adequately sample the electorate".

Type of Audit Units:

Individual ballots

The random sample consists of "one or more full precincts, full counts of mailed absentee ballots, full counts of one or more one stop early voting sites, or a combination". The statute requires that the State Board consult a statistician to ensure that the sample can produce a statistically significant result.

Counting Method:

Hand count

Oversight and Conduct of Audit: The State Board of Elections is responsible both for overseeing the development of procedures for audits, including the method by which the random sample is to be selected, and for choosing the random sample. The audit is conducted by county election officials.

Timeline for Audit: The random selection of precincts for a given county must be done "after the initial count of election returns for that county is publicly released or 24 hours after the polls close on election day, whichever is earlier." There is no timeline provided for completion of the audit.

Additional Resources:

North Carolina State Board of Elections
North Carolina Statutes - Chapter 163 - Elections
North Carolina Administrative Code: Title 08 - Elections