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2022 General Election: Post-Election Manual Ballot Tabulation Audit

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

1) At least 2% of election day precints, including at least 1 randomly selected election day vote center in each county and the remainder of election day vote centers 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 ballots cast during early voting and mail-in and provisional ballots, including a minimum number in each county, as set by SBE. For the 2022 General Election, SBE has set 15 votes as the minimum number of mail-in 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 greater than 0.5%, SBE can expand the manual audit and take any other actions it considers necessary to resolve the discrepancy.

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 2022 General Election, the previous comparable general election held was the 2018 General Election.

Selecting the Contest to be Audited

At the November 29, 2018 meeting of the State Board of Elections2, prior to the inaugural manual audit of the 2018 General Election, the State Board decided upon parameters for the contest to be audited. Those parameters were: 

•       That the same contest would be audited by each local board of elections, and therefore, the contest would be a statewide race.

•       That the contest would be a “pick one” contest.

These parameters were used to determine the contest to be audited in 2020, and will be used again in 2022. The contest to be audited will be selected at the same time as the election day precincts (see “Election Day Ballots”) below.

2 Full minutes of the November 29, 2018 State Board of Elections meeting can be found here (PDF).

Selecting the Ballots to be Audited

Before the election, SBE will determine the number of ballots to be audited in each local jurisdiction for ballots cast during early voting and mail-in and provisional ballots, based on 1% of each ballot type cast during the 2018 General Election. This chart shows 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.

Mail-in and Provisional Ballots

The number of mail-in and provisional ballots in the audit is based on the turnout from the 2018 General Election. The number of mail-in ballots and provisional ballots to be audited was calculated by multiplying the 2018 relevant turnout by 0.01, in order to determine 1% of the total number of ballots cast in each category. If 1% of the 2018 turnout was less than 15 ballots, the local board audited 15 ballots.

Each local board will randomly select the mail-in and provisional ballots to be audited, as they prepare for the respective canvasses. These ballots are then kept separate from the remainder of the mail-in and provisional ballots and marked as “audit ballots.”

At the start of the first mail-in and provisional canvasses, these ballots are presented, reviewed, and tabulated first, and then stored in sealable boxes marked “Mail-in 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 are stored with the remainder of the mail-in or provisional ballots.

Early Voting Ballots

The formula used to determine the number of mail-in and provisional ballots to be audited was also applied to early voting. Using the early voting turnout from the 2018 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 will randomly select the early voting center to be audited. Local boards will be notified of the selected early voting centers the day prior to the first day of early voting. A list of the selected early voting centers will be posted here after the election.

By 7 pm on the first day of early voting, the chief judges at the selected early voting centers will determine which scanner meets the minimum number of ballots to be audited. If none of the scanning units meets the minimum, two scanners will be selected. At the close of the first day of early voting, and after all voters have left the building, a local election official will run a results report from the selected scanner(s).  The election officials will then secure the ballots from the selected scanner(s) and the report(s) 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 one precinct from each local jurisdiction. Within 15 days of the election, SBE will randomly select the precincts to be audited, and will then notify the local boards. The list of precincts selected for the manual audit will be listed once it becomes available.

Preparing for the Audit

Each local board spends approximately a half day to two days preparing for the manual audit. Smaller local boards generally used all or most staff in audit preparations, while larger local boards used five to six individuals.

Preparation tasks included sorting the ballots into batches, preparing batch tally sheets for each batch, selecting audit tallying teams, setting up the audit room, and preparing audio & video equipment if the audit will be livestreamed. Additionally, all local boards are required to provide public notice of the audit, which must be mailed or emailed to candidates for the contest to be audited, as well as posted on the local board’s website and in the front of the office ten days prior to the audit.

Conducting the Audit

Each local board must conduct a manual audit of the required ballots within 120 days of the 2022 General Election. Depending on the number of ballots to be audited, the audit can take anywhere from two hours to two days, and can require only a half dozen individuals or close to 30 individuals to complete.

Results of the Audit

After the audits are complete, the results will be shown here. Like the automated tabulation audit, the purpose of the manual tabulation audit is to confirm the accuracy of the voting system’s results. To that end, any differences between the audit count and the voting system will be shown and, to the extent possible, explained. Any discrepancies greater than 0.05% would trigger additional auditing.

2020 General Election

Click here to see the report and results of the 2020 Post Election Manual Ballot Tabulation Audit.