Skip to Main Content

2018 General Election: Post-Election Manual Ballot Tabulation Audit


The post-election manual ballot tabulation audit requires an audit of:

  1. At least 2% of precincts statewide, including at least 1 randomly selected precinct in each county and the remainder of precincts to be chosen by SBE; and
  2. A number of votes equal to at least 1% of the statewide total in the previous comparable general election1 of early votes, absentee votes, and provisional votes, including a minimum number in each county, as set by SBE. For the 2018 General Election, SBE set 15 votes as the minimum number of absentee ballots and provisional ballots for each county. 

The manual audit must be completed by each local board within 120 days after the general election. If the manual audit shows a discrepancy, SBE can expand the manual audit and take any other actions it considers necessary to resolve the discrepancy.

Selecting the Ballots to be Audited

Before the election, SBE determined the number of ballots to be audited in each local jurisdiction for early, absentee, and provisional ballots. This chart shows a summary of the minimum number of ballots from each jurisdiction to be audited based on the requirements set forth in §11-309 of the Election Law Article.

Absentee and Provisional Ballots

The number of absentee and provisional ballots in the audit is based on the turnout from the 2014 General Election.  The number of absentee ballots and provisional ballots to be audited was calculated by multiplying the 2014 relevant turnout by 0.01, in order to determine 1% of the total. This was repeated for each local jurisdiction for absentee and provisional ballots. If 1% of the 2014 turnout was less than 15 ballots, the local board audited 15 ballots.

Each local board randomly selected the absentee and provisional ballots to be audited, as they prepared for the respective canvasses. These ballots were then kept separate from the remainder of the absentee and provisional ballots and marked as “audit ballots.”

At the start of the first absentee and provisional canvasses, these ballots were presented, reviewed, and tabulated first, and then stored in sealable boxes marked “Absentee Ballots for Manual Audit” or “Provisional Ballots for Manual Audit.” At the completion of each canvass, the sealed boxed containing the ballots to be audited were stored with the remainder of the absentee or provisional ballots.

Early Voting Ballots

The formula was used to determine the number of absentee and provisional ballots to be audited was also applied to early voting. Using the early voting turnout from the 2014 General Election, 1% of that turnout was calculated to determine the number of early voting ballots for each local jurisdiction to be audited.

Jurisdictions with only one early voting center audited ballots from that early voting center.  For jurisdictions with more than one early voting center, SBE used a random number generator to select the early voting center to be audited.

By 7 pm on the first day of early voting, the chief judges at the selected early voting centers determined which scanner met the minimum number of ballots to be audited. If neither scanning unit met the minimum, two scanners were selected. At the close of the first day of early voting, and after all voters left the building, a local election official ran a results report from that scanner.  The election officials secured the ballots from the selected scanner(s) and the report in a sealed box.

Election Day Ballots

Section 11-309 of the Election Law Article requires that 2% of all statewide precincts must be audited, including at least 1 precinct from each local jurisdiction. For the 2018 General Election, there were 2,034 precincts.  41 precincts is 2% of the total number of precincts.

A listing of the number of precincts by local jurisdiction can be found here, and a more detailed listing of the precincts and corresponding polling places, in order of local jurisdiction, can be found here.

To select the required precinct from each local jurisdiction, each precinct number was printed on paper, folded, and placed in containers, separated by local jurisdictions. The members of the State Board of Elections drew one slip of paper for each local jurisdiction. The remaining slips of paper were combined, and the members of the State Board continued selecting slips of paper until 41 precincts were selected. This occurred at the November 29, 2018 public meeting of the State Board.

In order to maintain the integrity of the ballots and minimize any security risks, the identity of the selected precincts remained confidential until 3 weeks prior to their chosen audit date. Local jurisdictions provided on their website notice of the date and time for the audit and the precincts being audited.

This chart shows which precincts were selected for audit (Excel).

Conducting the Audit

Each local board conducted a manual audit of the required ballots within 120 days of the 2018 General Election, starting with Caroline County on January 8, 2019, and concluding with Washington County on February 28, 2019. Details of the time, resources, and materials needed to conduct this audit, and procedures followed will be detailed in the Legislative Report required by § 2–1246 of the State Government Article, which is to be completed on or before May 1, 2019.

Results of the Audit

This chart shows the numerical results of the post-election manual tabulation audit. As the chart shows, there were zero vote differences between the manual audit and the voting system results in any local jurisdiction. Simply put, these audits showed that the voting system accurately counted votes.

1 “Previous comparable general election” is defined as (1) in a presidential election year, the presidential election held four years earlier and (2) in a gubernatorial election year, the gubernatorial election held four years earlier. For the 2018 General Election, the previous comparable general election held was the 2014 General Election.