Tiered Post-Election Audit
In this model, jurisdictions are required to randomly select precincts or machines to audit using a sliding percentage based on the margin of victory. The smaller the margin of victory, the more units are required to be audited; the larger the margin of victory, the fewer units are required to be audited. All voter verifiable paper records for the selected precincts or machines are hand-counted and compared to the electronic tallies. If the initial percentage counted is shown to have a discrepancy, an additional percentage of precincts or machines are added to the audit.
Preparing for the Audit
For information on how to prepare for the audit click here.
Determining Audit Size
The number of ballots that must be audited for a tiered post-election audit is based on the rates that have been decided upon. While this percentage may vary according to election jurisdiction, it is generally prescribed by the secretary of state or other head election officer. Recommended tiers are as follows, but they can vary:
The margin of victory is calculated by subtracting the defeated response’s votes from the winning response’s votes. The margin of victory percentage is calculated by dividing the margin of victory by the total number of votes (the sum of votes for all candidates and over votes). The following is an example for calculating the margin of victory percentage:
Candidate A received 100 votes and Candidate B received 105 votes. There were 15 under votes and 20 over votes. The margin of victory is 5 votes (105 – 100 = 5) and the total number of votes is 225 (100 + 105+20 = 225). Therefore, the margin of victory percentage is 2.22% (5/225 = .0222 or 2.22%). The margin of victory percentage, 2.22%, falls in the second tier, requiring a hand count of 5% of the election units.
Selecting Precincts for Audit
The required number of precincts to be audited must be randomly selected by a bipartisan selection team in a time and place that is publicized and in a location that is open to the public.
- Whole precincts and/or multi-precinct polling locations shall be selected for the audit.
- Enough precincts and/or multi-precinct polling locations shall be selected for the audit whose total votes cast, when taken together, equal at least the threshold of the total number of votes that must be audited for the election at issue in the county.
- To calculate this number, multiply the number of total votes cast for that contest by the percentage of votes that must be audited— for example, if 3% of the votes must be audited, multiply the total number of votes by .03—then, if necessary, round up to the next whole number.
- The specific method used to randomly select precincts can vary depending on election jurisdiction. Some common methods of precinct selection include:
- Using ping pong balls and a hopper, assign a precinct to each ping pong ball, place all ping pong balls into the hopper, mix the ping pong balls together and select one ball at a time until the threshold is reached or exceeded.
- Using a box and small slips of equal sized paper, assign a precinct to each slip of paper, place all slips of paper into the box, mix the papers together and select one slip at a time until the threshold is reached or exceeded.
Auditing the Selected Precincts
Teams of election officials equally divided between the state’s two major political parties for each precinct batch to be audited will perform the following steps.
- Record the name of the batch on the “Hand Count Tally Sheet.”
- Compare the total number of votes cast in the candidate races and question or issue elections being audited to the number of voters listed in the poll book, poll list or signature poll book records.
- If more votes in a precinct appear for a particular race or issue than the number of marked names in the poll book, poll list or signature poll book records (showing voters who voted, including absentee and provisional voters), check the appropriate box on the tally sheet.
- Verify each candidate’s race, or a question or issue has been properly identified.
- NOTE: Observers and members of the public may observe the inspection of the ballots but may not handle ballots.
- For batches with multiple ballot types, the auditing counting team will process one ballot category at a time.
- (DEM) Count the total number ballots in stacks of ten, crisscrossing each stack.
- (REP) Verify each stack contains ten ballots.
- Total the ballot stacks and record this number on the tally sheet. A supervisor will compare the hand count of total ballots to the official certified results. If the totals match, continue to the next step. If there is a difference, the same team can do a new hand count.
- Separate the ballots by each possible response for the audited contest including stacks for over votes and under votes.
- Contests in which more than one response may be voted will require each response to be stacked and counted individually.
- (DEM) Count the total number ballots in each response pile in stacks of ten, crisscrossing each stack.
- (REP) Verify each stack contains ten ballots.
- Total the ballot stacks for each response and record on the tally sheet.
- A total of all ballots for each ballot type within the batch will be hand counted and placed in the TOTALS column of the tally sheet.
- A supervisor will compare the hand count tally to the official certified results.
- If the results match, return all ballots to their original packaging and move on to the next selected precinct.
- If there is a difference, a new hand count will commence by a different team.
Repeat these steps until all selected election units have been hand counted.
What must be done in the event of discrepancies between the Official Canvass and the Audit must be decided upon in advance of the audit. While escalation procedures may vary according to election jurisdiction, it is generally prescribed by the secretary of state or other head election officer. A recommended escalation example would be to audit an additional 3% of votes cast if the difference is 0.5% or more.