State Audit Laws Searchable Database

State Audit Laws - Tennessee

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

State Summary:

Tennessee established its audit provisions through the passage of the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act in 2008. Audits are not binding and there is no requirement that the audits could lead to a full recount. Audits occur only for the offices of governor and president. The provisions are found in Tennessee Code § 2-20-103.


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 is open to the public, as is the audit itself. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-20-103 (a)(2) and (b)(2)(A). However, there is no mention of members of the public or observers being allowed to verify marks on the ballots. The county election commission shall publicly announce the results of any machine re-tabulations or manual hand counts. See Tennessee Code § 2-20-103 (b)(2)(D)(ii).  See also Tennessee Code § 2-20-103 (b)(2)(C)(i) & (iv).

Voting Systems Used:

Mixed paper ballot and DREs without VVPAT

Seven counties in Tennessee use precinct-count optical scanners as the primary voting while the remaining counties use DREs without VVPAT. For details visit the Tennessee page on The Verifier.


No statutory guidance whether audit results are binding on official results

While neither the initial audit results, nor the results from an expanded audit, are binding upon the official election results, they may be used as evidence in any legal contest filed pertaining to that election. See Tennessee Code § 2-20-103 (b)(2)(D)(iii).

Addressing Discrepancies and Continuing the Audit:

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

If the initial machine audit reveals discrepancies of more than 1%, the audit is expanded to include "at least" 3% of voting precincts (which may include the same precincts audited in the original 1%). This second audit is conducted by machine, but at the discretion of the county election commission may also be done by hand. Although the statute implies that the county election commission has the discretion to audit more that 3% of the voting precincts, it is not clear whether the audit could be expanded to a full recount. It is also noteworthy that the statute does not require discrepancies below 1% to be addressed. See Tennessee Code § 2-20-103 (b)(2)(D)(ii).

Audit Comprehensiveness:

Absentee ballots included in audit
Early voted ballots included in audit
No statutory guidance for ballots counted by hand on election day to be included in audit

At least one precinct-based optical scan tabulator used to count early voting ballots is audited. Some absentee ballots are also included in the audit, but only those that are tabulated by machine. See Tennessee Code § 2-20-103 (a)(1)(B) and (b)(2)(A).

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
Statewide election contests audited

Audits are for the offices of governor and president in the November general elections only. See Tennessee Code § 2-20-103 (a)(1).

Type of Audit Units:


The number of precincts audited depends on the population of a given county. For those with fewer than 300,000 people, at least one precinct is audited; for those with 300,000 or more, at least five precincts must be audited. See Tenn. Code Ann. §2-20-103 (a)(1)(C). Additionally, at least one precinct-based optical scan tabulator used to count early voting ballots must also be audited. Tennessee Code § 2-20-103 (a)(1)(B).

Counting Method:

Counting method chosen by election official
Mix of machine and hand count

Voter-verified paper ballots are to be counted "by inserting the  ballots in a different optical scan tabulator than that used to originally count the ballots." See Tenn. Code Ann. §2-20-103 (b)(2)(C)(i), (ii) and (iii), and b(2)(D)(ii). See also the definition of voter verifiable paper ballots at Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-20-101(3). The expanded audit is also conducted by machine, but at the discretion of the county election commission may be conducted by hand as well. See Tennessee Code § 2-20-103 (b)(2)(D)(ii).

Oversight and Conduct of Audit: Both oversight and conduct of audits is the responsibility of the county election commissions.

Timeline for Audit: The random selection of the precincts for the audit is required to take place "Immediately after the polls close." See Section (a)(2). The audit is to begin "before one o'clock p.m. (1:00 pm) local time on the day following election day." See Tennessee Code § 2-20-103 (b)(2).

Additional Resources:

Tennessee Code
Tennessee Secretary of State--Elections