Risk-limiting audits are one version of a postelection audit, and a version that is growing in interest among election officials and legislators. A postelection audit checks that the voting equipment and procedures used to count votes worked properly, and that an election yielded the correct outcome. While these audits are not new, they have gained attention in the last three years as election security has come to the policy foreground. A postelection audit may be able to detect whether any outside interference occurred, and security experts recommend them as one method of protecting the integrity of elections.
While the phrase "postelection audit" can be used to mean a variety of election validation efforts, as a term of art it refers to checking paper ballots (or records) against the results produced by the vote tallying equipment to ensure accuracy. Thirty-four states and Washington, D.C., have some form of a postelection audit as defined by NCSL. For more information on traditional audits, visit NCSL’s Post-Election Audits webpage.
For information on risk-limiting audits, click on the options below.
A special thanks to Jennifer Morrell, an elections consultant leading the Election Validation Project at Democracy Fund, for her extensive research and work with RLAs and for her collaboration on this webpage.