Under DC Code § 1–1001.09a, after each general and special election, the Board of Elections conducts a manual audit of at least 5% of precincts, plus at least 5% of centrally tabulated ballots, including absentee and special ballots. The Board audits no fewer than three (3) contests, of which at least one shall be a District-wide contest and at least two shall be ward-wide races. Prior to the certification of the official election results, the Board shall publish and make available for inspection the results of the manual audit.
Unless otherwise specified, statutory references are to DC Code § 1–1001.09a.
Voting Systems Used
As of 2020, the District of Columbia primarily uses hand marked paper ballots and optical scanners in polling places, with ballot marking devices for accessibility. For the most up to date information please visit Verified Voting’s Verifier.
For an explanation on the types of voting equipment used, click here.
The audit includes 5% of centrally tabulated ballots, which includes absentee and early voted ballots, as well as 5% of Election Day precincts are to be audited. The law also specifies that special (that is, provisional) ballots are included in the audit.
The statutes states that after each general and special election, the Board shall conduct a public manual audit. The Board announces the method by which it intends to randomly select precincts, voter-verifiable records tabulated centrally, and contests, and conducts the random selection in such a way as to allow the public to observe and ensure that the selection is random. The audit is conducted in public view so that members of the public are able to “verify that votes are correctly classified and tallied.” The Board shall publish on its website and make available for public inspection a report of results of the manual audit before certification of the official election results. In addition to the results, the Board of Elections must also identify and explain any discrepancies and describe what investigations or actions are underway based on the discrepancies.
Audit Counting Method
Ballots are counted by hand using procedures specified by the Board of Elections.
Type Of Audit Units
D.C. uses a traditional audit approach with a mix of audit units. At least 5% of precincts using voting machines are randomly selected for the audit, as well as batches containing an additional 5% of votes counted centrally.
Contests & Issues Audited
The statute states that a minimum of three (3) contests are to be audited, and these must include at least one (1) district-wide and at least two (2) ward-wide contests. However, the specific contests are randomly selected. In addition to the randomly selected three contests, the “Board shall select at least one additional contest” to be audited.
D.C.’s audit law contains a three-stage escalation protocol:
Stage One: If a discrepancy is identified that is either greater than .25% or 20% of the margin of victory, whichever is less, a second audit of the same precincts is conducted.
Stage Two: If the second count confirms the discrepancy, an additional precinct in each ward in which the contest appears on the ballot will also be conducted. An additional 5% of centrally tabulated ballots is also audited.
Stage Three: If the expanded audit continues to find discrepancies (again, either greater than .25% or 20% of the margin of victory, whichever is less), then all ballots for the contest in question are to be manually recounted.
For recount laws, see Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota website.
The audit is completed before certification and the results made available for public review.
Binding On Official Outcomes
The audit is to be conducted before the election is certified. The results derived from the manual audits shall be deemed the true and correct results of the election contests at issue with respect to the votes audited and shall be used in lieu of further counting in any automatic recounts.
Oversight & Conduct
The Board of Election and Ethics both oversees and conducts the audit. The date of the audit must be announced (not commenced) no later than three (3) business days after the initial canvass, and at least twenty-four (24) hours before the audit begins.
After the voting is complete, the Board of Elections shall receive the ballots cast and deposit them in a secure place where they shall be safely kept for twenty-two (22) months. Following the tabulation of all votes, a full accounting of official ballots shall be made prior to certification of the official election results. For more information see, D.C. Code Ann. § 1-1001.09 (j); DC Municipal Regulations §3-811; DC Municipal Regulations §3-723; DC Municipal Regulations §3-724.
Additional Targeted Samples
The Board may, in its discretion, audit additional precincts, voter-verifiable records or contests provided, that the Board shall select at least one additional contest not already included in the manual audit.