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“Post-election audits are a critical function that not only ensures accuracy, but most importantly voters’ confidence in our elections and those who are elected to lead our communities and nation,” says Nebraska Senator Adam Morfeld.

Bookmark This: Bipartisan Principles for Election Audits

By Amanda Zoch | Dec. 13, 2021 | State Legislatures News | Print

Election audits have held the spotlight for over a year now, and legislators on both sides of the aisle agree that statutorily mandated reviews—such as risk-limiting audits or fixed-percentage post-election audits—are a key method for confirming and bolstering confidence in election results.

“Risk-limiting audits are one tool that states can implement to increase the confidence of our citizens that the outcomes of our elections are accurate,” Kentucky Representative James Tipton (R) says. The Bluegrass State created a risk-limiting audit pilot program this year.

Risk-limiting audits are one tool that states can implement to increase the confidence of our citizens that the outcomes of our elections are accurate. —Kentucky Representative James Tipton

Nebraska Senator Adam Morfeld (D) agrees. “Post-election audits are a critical function that not only ensures accuracy, but most importantly voters’ confidence in our elections and those who are elected to lead our communities and nation.”

Policymakers, however, often diverge on the details. Should states use risk-limiting audits or fixed-percentage audits? Should post-election audits take place before or after certification? Who conducts the audit? How are anomalies addressed if identified?

The Bipartisan Policy Center takes up these questions in a new brief, “Bipartisan Principles for Election Audits,” covering eight principles unanimously endorsed by the center’s Task Force on Elections. The task force includes 28 state and local election officials from 20 states and both sides of the aisle.

“Audits are nothing new,” the brief states, “and when the ‘audit’ meets certain basic, bipartisan standards, they are the primary means of increasing confidence in an election’s legitimacy.” To ensure elections are fair and accurate, and to encourage public trust, the center makes the following recommendations:

  • Audits should occur after every election and be explicitly authorized in state law.
  • Audits should have a thorough, pre-established methodology.
  • Audits should follow established security best practices and be conducted with trusted technology and tools.
  • Election officials must maintain custody of ballots and other election peripherals in accordance with federal and state law and judicial standards for admissible evidence.
  • Audits should be fully funded by state or local public resources.
  • Audits should be transparent and open to the public for observation.
  • Audit results should be clearly communicated to the public after their completion.
  • Audits should take place before results are certified.

For more details on each principle, read the full brief here. Or check out NCSL’s resources on post-election audits and risk-limiting audits, as well as the NCSL webinar What Is an Election Audit?, from July 2021.

Mandy Zoch is a project manager in NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting Program.

Additional Resources