State Audit Laws Searchable Database

State Audit Laws - Texas

This information was updated in March 2017.

State Summary:

The Texas audit law was originally passed in 1987, and later amended in 1993, 1997 and 2011. All statutes cited below can be found at Texas Election Code Ann. §127.201. Additional instructions regarding audits from the Texas Secretary of State are available in the Election Advisory No. 2012-03.

Transparency:

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

While candidates and their appointed representatives are allowed to observe, there are no provisions that mention their ability to verify ballot marks. See Texas Election Code Ann. §127.201, Subsection (b). While appointed observers are allowed, there is also no mention of the general public's ability to attend, and no requirement for the time and location of the audit to be publicly announced.

Voting Systems Used:

Mixed paper ballot and DREs without VVPAT

Texas counties use a wide range of DREs without VVPAT and optical scanners. For details visit the Texas page on The Verifier.

Binding:

No statutory guidance whether audit results are binding on official results

The statutes do not stipulate whether the results are binding upon the official election results.

Addressing Discrepancies and Continuing the Audit:

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

Election Advisory No. 2012-03, Subsection (d)(xi) provides that "If there are discrepancies in the audit, the election official shall continue its audit until it determines the cause of the discrepancy."

Additional Targeted Samples:

No statutory guidance for additional targeted samples

Contests and Issues Audited:

Every contest and ballot issue voted on the ballot is audited
Federal election contests audited
Local election contests audited
Primary elections audited
Statewide election contests audited

There are two statutes that inform which contests are to be audited. The first more general statute requires that the general custodian of election records conduct an audit for all items on the ballot in the precincts randomly selected by the Secretary of State. See Texas Election Code Ann. §127.201(a).

However, for certain elections - general elections for state and county officers, primary elections, or any election with proposed state constitutional amendments or statewide ballot measures - the Secretary of State selects three contests and three ballot items for a more focused audit, and notifies the general custodian that these are the contests to be audited. See Texas Election Code Ann. §127.201(b). The law clearly states that this second audit, from Subsection (b), is not simply an additional audit but supersedes the Subsection (a) audit.

Type of Audit Units:

Precincts/districts

A manual count is to be conducted in at least 1% of election precincts, "or in three precincts, whichever is greater." The audit is only conducted in those precincts using electronic voting systems. See Texas Election Code Ann. §127.201(a). Additionally, the Secretary of State may select additional "any portion of any number of ballots from any precinct in which the electronic voting system was used" for auditing at their discretion. See Texas Election Code Ann. §127.202, "Count of Electronic Voting System Ballots by Secretary of State".

Counting Method:

Hand count

See Texas Election Code Ann. §127.201(a). Although Texas' law specifies a manual audit, in reality a very large number of precincts in Texas use direct-recording electronic machines (DREs) without a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT), meaning that no hand count of ballots or VVPATs can be conducted in those precincts. The audit statute explicitly provides that the hand count requirement does not apply where DREs are used. See Texas Election Code Ann. §127.201(g).

Oversight and Conduct of Audit: The audit is conducted by the general custodian of election records. Oversight is handled by the Secretary of State.

Timeline for Audit: The audit must begin within 72 hours after the polls close, and be completed not later than the 21st day after election day. See Texas Election Code Ann. §127.201(a). Regarding optional audits by the Secretary of State, "The count may be conducted at any time during the period for preserving the applicable precinct election records." See Texas Election Code Ann. §127.201(b). 

Additional Resources:


Texas Secretary of State Elections Division
Texas Constitution and Statutes - Election Code



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