In 2022, the Idaho Legislature passed legislation requiring a post-election audit after primary and general elections. Previously, Idaho only conducted an audit when a recount was required. The statute also requires the secretary of state to establish audit procedures by directive. The first such audit directive, which established audit procedures for the 2022 primary election, was issued in March 2022. Idaho Secretary of State’s Office: 2022 Primary Election Postelection Audit (March 2022) (hereinafter, “2022 Postelection Audit Directive”).
The secretary of state randomly selects counties and precincts for audit and selects the contests. Eight counties of various sizes are randomly selected; for details see the “County & Precinct Selection Process” section of the 2022 Postelection Audit Directive. The precincts selected for audit should “not exceed five percent (5%) of the precincts in the county or one (1) precinct, whichever is greater.” Idaho Code § 34-1203A(1)(c)(ii). If fewer than 2,100 ballots are selected for audit in a county, additional precincts may be drawn, up to the full county. Id.
Unless otherwise specified, references are to Idaho Code § 34-1203A.
Voting Systems Used
Idaho primarily uses hand marked paper ballots and optical scanners in polling places, with ballot marking devices for accessibility. One county fields ballot marking devices for all voters. 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 covers Election Day, early, and absentee ballots. However, there is no specific mention in the statute of provisional ballots.
The precincts selected for audit should “not exceed five percent (5%) of the precincts in the county or one (1) precinct, whichever is greater.” Idaho Code § 34-1203A(1)(c)(ii). For early and absentee ballots, the audit unit may not be precincts (see “Type Of Audit Units” for further details). If fewer than 2,100 ballots are selected for audit in a particular county, however, additional precincts may be drawn, up to the full county. Id.
The random selection of counties and precincts for audit is conducted at a public meeting.
The audit itself is open to news media personnel. Each interested candidate and political party, and each political committee that reported spending money on a ballot question subject to audit, are authorized to appoint a designated observer to observe the audit.
The statute requires the secretary of state to publish audit reports on the secretary of state’s website within a timeframe established by the secretary of state’s directive. The most recent directive requires that reports be published “by no later than the day by which the State Board of Canvassers must meet to certify the canvass of county abstracts.” 2022 Postelection Audit Directive
Audit Counting Method
While the audit statute does not specify the counting method, the audit directive requires a manual audit.
Type Of Audit Units
The statute generally provides for audits of precincts. However, for counties that do not store early or absentee ballots by precinct, the secretary of state may instead select “days, batches, legislative districts, or tabulation machines of early or absentee ballots for audit until the number of ballots selected equals or exceeds the number of early or absentee ballots that were cast from the precincts selected for postelection audit.” (Idaho Code § 34-1203A(1)(d)) To do so, a county must organize the storage of ballots by day, batch, legislative district, or tabulation machine and publicly report election results in this same manner on the county’s website prior to the secretary of state’s selection of precincts for audit. Given this provision, we consider Idaho to utilize a mix of audit units.
Contests & Issues Audited
Audits are to be conducted after general and primary elections, including presidential primary elections. According to the statute, an audit may be ordered for:
“(i) Any or all federal elections held in Idaho;
(ii) The election for governor;
(iii) The statewide office election having the narrowest percentage margin of votes;
(iv) The statewide ballot question election having the narrowest percentage margin of votes; and
(v) One (1) legislative office election within the county.” Idaho Code § 34-1203A(1)(b).
The most recent audit directive provides further details: “The Secretary will, at his discretion, choose at least one candidate or ballot question election for audit for each precinct, or absentee or early voting ballot grouping drawn for audit, from the list of elections in subsection (1)(b) of Section 34-1203A, Idaho Code.” 2022 Postelection Audit Directive.
Since the statute does not offer explicit criteria for expanding the audit, we categorize Idaho as providing no guidance for addressing discrepancies. However, the audit directive does provide a mechanism for the secretary of state to conduct additional audits: “The Secretary of State may order additional postelection audits if he determines that such action is warranted by the findings of the Postelection Audit Report. If additional postelection audits are so ordered, they are not subject to limitations on the number of ballots or types of elections selected, but must be limited to the types of problems identified in the Postelection Audit Report, and may be conducted immediately following publication of the Postelection Audit Report.” 2022 Postelection Audit Directive.
For recount laws, see Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota website.
The audit statute requires the secretary of state to determine audit procedures no later than 60 days before an election. Idaho Code § 34-1203A(2). According to the most recent audit directive, randomly drawn counties and precincts are determined on the day the county canvass is reported to the secretary of state. The audit directive provides that the post-election audit should take place three days following the random draw of counties and precincts. The most recent directive specifies that audit reports are due “no later than the day by which the State Board of Canvassers must meet to certify the canvass of county abstracts.” 2022 Postelection Audit Directive. As a result, we consider Idaho’s audit to be conducted before results are finalized.
Binding On Official Outcomes
No guidance is provided on whether the audit is binding.
Oversight & Conduct
The secretary of state selects the counties and precincts for audit as well as the audited contests. The secretary of state also establishes the audit procedures. Idaho Code § 34-1203A.
The audit statute also requires the secretary of state to conduct the audit, with county clerks facilitating the audit. Idaho Code § 34-1203A(2). According to the audit directive, the secretary of state assigns a team or teams to each county composed of at least one secretary of state employee and a minimum of two additional audit representatives, one each from the two largest political parties in the state. 2022 Postelection Audit Directive. If the parties do not provide adequate representatives, the county or state may provide a substitute audit representative.
After the polls close, the judges immediately proceed to count the ballots cast and continue without adjournment until completed and the result declared. Idaho Code § 34-1201(1). After being counted, all ballots must be sealed and stored until such time as the recount period has passed or a recount has been completed. Idaho Code § 34-1201(4).
After counties and precincts are selected for audit, a notice is sent to the respective counties and county sheriffs. “Upon receiving such notification, the county sheriff shall immediately impound and take into custody the affected ballots pursuant to the procedures in chapter 23, title 34, Idaho Code.” Idaho Code § 34-1203A(1)(a).
Additional Targeted Samples
As discussed under “Addressing Discrepancies,” the secretary of state may order additional post-election audits to address problems identified in the post-election audit report.