State Audit Laws Searchable Database

State Audit Laws - Wisconsin

This information was updated in March 2017.

State Summary:

Passed in 2006, Wisconsin's audit legislation is not binding upon election results and cannot be expanded to a full recount. The statute governing audits is Wis. Stat. Ann. §7.08(6). Rules for Wisconsin's audit procedures can be found in the Government Accountability Board's 2014 Voting System Audit Requirements (VSAR). In 2015, Wisconsin Act 118 eliminated the Government Accountability Board and replaced it with the Wisconsin Elections Commission, effective July 1, 2016. The Commission's functions include administering the audit provisions of Wis. Stat. Ann. §7.08(6).


No statutory requirement that audit results and data be made public
Statutes specify that audits must be conducted publicly
Statutes specify that observers can verify marks on the ballots

The audit is open to the public. See VSAR, page 2 "Pre-Audit Preparations." The time and location for the audit is posted at least 48 hours prior to the scheduled audit. See VSAR, page 2, "General Procedures."

Voting Systems Used:

Mixed paper ballot and DREs with VVPAT

All jurisdictions in Wisconsin use optical scanners of hand counts as the primary voting system. Some jurisdictions provide DREs with VVPAT forn accessibility and other use ballot marking devices. For details visit the Wisconsin page on The Verifier.


No statutory guidance whether audit results are binding on official results

Addressing Discrepancies and Continuing the Audit:

No statutory guidance for expanding the audit

The purpose of the audit is to determine "If the [voting system] error rate exceeds the rate permitted under standards of the federal election commission in effect on October 29, 2002," in which case "the board shall take remedial action and order remedial action to be taken by affected counties and municipalities to ensure compliance with the standards." See Wis. Stat. Ann. §7.08(6).  In determining the voting system error rate, votes are counted as the voting equipment would have counted them.  "Voter intent is not a factor." See VSAR page 3, "General Procedures," item 6.

If there are discrepancies found in the initial audit, the same ballots are counted again, and the discrepancy reported. The audit is not expanded. See VSAR, page 4 "Recommended Audit Procedures". In the event that a discrepancy between the machine tally and the paper record tally cannot be reasonably explained, the [Election Commission] staff must request that the voting equipment manufacturer investigate and explain the reasons for any differences between the machine tally and the paper record tally. The State is then required to suspend approval of any equipment from such vendors as cannot provide adequate explanations for the discrepancies. See VSAR, page 5, "Post-Audit Procedures."

"For good cause, the [Election Commission] staff may identify other reporting units to be audited." See VSAR, page 2, "Reporting Unit Selection".

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

No mention is made of early, absentee, or provisional ballots in the statute governing audits or in the audit procedures outlined by the Election Commission. Wis. Stat. Ann. §7.08(6) requires only that electronic voting systems in each reporting unit be audited.

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
Randomly selected election contests or ballots issue are audited
Statewide election contests audited

Only general elections are audited. See Wis. Stat. Ann. §7.08(6). "Four (4) contests shall be audited, including the top contest on the ballot (either gubernatorial or presidential). The other audited contests shall be selected randomly by the Election Commission staff from the other state contests that appear on the ballot." See VSAR, page 3, "General Procedures," item 2.

Type of Audit Units:


Wisconsin audits reporting units, which can be a ward, a combination of wards or other districts by which votes are tallied. See VSAR, page 1, Definitions". "The Election Commission staff will randomly select one hundred (100) reporting units across Wisconsin which will be subject to municipal audit, including a minimum of five (5) reporting units for each voting system used in Wisconsin." See VSAR, page 2, "Reporting Unit Selection".

Counting Method:

Hand count

See VSAR, page 3, "General Procedures," item 4 .

Oversight and Conduct of Audit: The audit is overseen by the [Election Commission].  The [Commission] staff conducts the random selection. See VSAR, pages 1-2. The auditing is conducted by municipal election officials; however, upon agreement of the municipality and county, the county clerk or county board of canvassers may perform the audit in lieu of the municipality. See VSAR, page 3.

Timeline for Audit: "The time and location of the audit must be posted at least 48 hours prior to the audit. Audits may commence as soon as notification is provided by the G.A.B."   The audit must be conducted, however, no later than two (2) weeks after the G.A.B. certifies the election results." See VSAR, page 2,"Pre-Audit Preparations".

Additional Resources:

Wisconsin Elections Commission
Wisconsin Statutes - Chapters 5-12 - Elections
Wisconsin Recount Manual (PDF) 2016