Massachusetts’s audit law, passed in 2014, requires a “hand-counted audit” after presidential general elections. The audit is conducted for 3% of all precincts in the commonwealth, rounded up to the next highest whole number, randomly selected at the state level, and applies to certain major contests. (See “Contests Audited.”)
Unless otherwise specified, statutory references are to Mass. Gen. Laws, §109A.
Voting Systems Used
Massachusetts primarily uses hand marked paper ballots with optical scanners or hand count in polling places statewide, 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.
Each precinct selected is required to conduct a hand-count audit of Election Day ballots in races for president and vice president, representative, senator, representative in the general court, and senator in the general court, so long as more than one name appears on the ballot, as well as one statewide ballot question, if any appear on the ballot, chosen by random drawing.
The audits are performed in full public view and the Secretary of the Commonwealth must make the audit report publicly available as soon as practicable, but no later than ten days after receipt of the audit report. In addition, “the precincts to be audited shall be chosen in a random, publicly verifiable, non-computerized drawing supervised by the state secretary within 48 hours after polls are closed. The drawing shall be fully observable to the public and representatives of each political party and shall use a procedure that can be easily understood to be random by members of the public.”
Audit Counting Method
The audit is conducted by hand count.
Type Of Audit Units
Massachusetts randomly selects precincts. “The number of precincts selected to be audited in this drawing shall be equal to 3% of all precincts in the commonwealth, rounded up to the next highest whole number.”
Contests & Issues Audited
The audit covers races for president, U.S. Senate and House, and the state legislature (“general court”), as well as one statewide issue selected randomly from all statewide issues on the ballot (if applicable).
If there is a discrepancy between the hand-counted audit and the originally reported tally of the audited precincts, the state secretary oversees an analysis and is required to publish the findings online, along with the factual information upon which such findings were based, within 180 days of beginning the analysis. In the case of a discrepancy, the hand count of the official paper ballots conducted pursuant to the audit is the official vote of record and the board of registrars or election commission is required to amend each precinct tally sheet, official return book, and checklist delivered to the office of the registrars. If such a discrepancy reasonably leads to doubt about the outcome of the election or systemic failure to accurately count ballots, the state secretary may order audits of additional precincts, offices, or ballot questions.
For recount laws see, Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota website.
The random selection of the precincts is conducted within 48 hours after the polls have closed. The audits must begin no later than two business days following the random selection of the precincts. “The registrars shall submit the completed audit report to the state secretary not later than 14 days following the election.”
Binding On Official Outcomes
If there is a discrepancy between the audit and the originally reported tallies, the hand count of the paper ballots conducted pursuant to the audit shall be the official vote of record.
Oversight & Conduct
The Secretary of the Commonwealth oversees the random drawing, while the board of registrars or election commission in a municipality conduct the audit.
After ballots are counted, the board or commission places all ballots in envelopes or containers and seals them with a provided seal and certifies upon each envelope or container that it has been opened and again sealed in conformity to law. The board or commission then places them in a locked facility and maintains the ballots. For more information see Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54 §§ 105–§109A and 950 CMR 54.06.
Additional Targeted Samples
There is no statutory guidance calling for additional targeted samples.