In 2019, Georgia passed a House Bill to amend Chapter 2 of Title 21 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated establishing a post-election audit process.
This statute required that local election superintendents conduct precertification audits of federal or state general elections no later than the November 2020 general election. The statute also mandates that the Secretary of State conduct a risk-limiting audit (RLA) program, with a risk limit of not greater than 10%, by December 31, 2021. The Secretary of State is directed to report on the pilot program to the General Assembly and develop a plan for statewide implementation. If the risk-limiting audit pilot program is considered successful, the statute requires that all audits be conducted as RLAs, as of November 1, 2024.
In September 2020, Georgia’s State Election Board adopted Ga. SEB Rule 183-1-15-.04 governing audits. The rule provides for a statewide risk-limiting audit of one contest following November general elections in even-numbered years.
Unless otherwise specified, statutory references are to Ga. Code Ann. §21-2-498.
All ballots are subject to audit. The audit should be “conducted by manual inspection of random samples of the paper official ballots.” All ballot types are audited, including those cast in person, by absentee ballot, early voting, and provisional ballots. In addition, Ga. SEB Rule 183-1-15-.04 provides for a risk-limiting audit that concludes when all selected ballots have been counted and the audit risk limit is met.
Local election superintendents shall conduct each audit in public view and provide details of the audit to the public within forty-eight (48) hours of completion.
Audit Counting Method
The audit is conducted using a hand count only. Audits are conducted by “manual inspection of random samples of the paper official ballots.”
Type Of Audit Units
Statute does not preclude any type of audit unit, although RLA pilots in Georgia in 2019 and 2020 sampled individual ballots. The audits will be “conducted by manual inspection of random samples of the paper official ballots … ensuring that all types of ballots are included in the audit, whether cast in person, by absentee ballot, advance voting, provisional ballot, or otherwise.”
Contests & Issues Audited
Statute requires that audits are to be conducted for federal or state general elections. According to Ga. SEB Rule 183-1-15-.04, only one contest is selected for audit, and the rule gives the Secretary of State discretion over which contest is selected. When selecting the contest, the Secretary of State is to consider criteria enumerated in SEB Rule 183-1-15-.04.
According to Ga. SEB Rule 183-1-15-.04, “The audit shall end once all selected ballots have been counted and the risk limit for the audit has been met.”
For recount laws, see Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota website.
The audits are conducted before the final certification of the contest and completed before election results are finalized.
Binding On Official Outcomes
In conducting each audit, the local election superintendents shall complete the audit prior to final certification of the contest. The statute does not specify that the results are binding on the official results. In November 2020, Georgia conducted a full hand count RLA of the presidential contest, which did not change the outcome—but the hand count results did not replace the originally reported results. It thus remains unclear whether audit results are binding.
Oversight & Conduct
The State Election Board establishes requirements for the audits in rule, while local election superintendents conduct the audits.
The “chain of custody for each ballot shall be maintained at all times during the audit, including but not limited to a log of the seal numbers on the ballot containers before and after completing the manual audit.” See, Ga. SEB Rule 183-1-15-.04. For precincts using paper ballots, “after the polls are closed and the last elector has voted in precincts in which ballots are used, at least two poll officers shall remain within the enclosed space.” See, GA Code Ann. § 21-2-436. For those using optical scanners, upon closure of the polls, poll workers shall either seal the ballot box and deliver to a central tabulator or immediately feed into an on-site tabulating machine. See, GA Code Ann. § 21-2-485.
Additional Targeted Samples
Statute does not provide for targeted samples.
Ga. SEB Rule 183-1-15-.04
Ga. Code Ann. §21-2-498.