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 state, 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
As of 2020, 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.
According to the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, the audit will include absentee, provisional and early voted ballots.
The audits are performed in full public view and the Secretary of State must make the audit report publicly available as soon as practicable, but no later than ten (10) days after receipt of the audit report form. In addition, “The precincts to be audited shall be chosen in a random, publicly verifiable, non-computerized drawing. 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 contested races for president, U.S. Senate and House, and 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 originally reported tallies and the audit results in that precinct (in any audited race or any audited ballot question) that leads to doubt about the outcome of the election or systemic failure to accurately count ballots, the Secretary of State may order audits of additional precincts, offices or ballot questions as shall be necessary to ensure that the outcome of the election is accurate and that the cause of the systemic failure is identified.”
For recount laws see, Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota website.
The random selection of the precincts is conducted within forty-eight (48) hours after the polls are closed. The audits must begin no later than two (2) business days following the random selection of the precincts. “The registrars shall submit the completed audit report forms to the state secretary not later than fourteen (14) days following the election.”
Binding On Official Outcomes
The audit must be completed no later than fourteen (14) days after a presidential election. 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 State oversees the random drawing, while the board of registrars or election commission in a municipality conduct the audit.
After ballots are counted, election officials place all ballots in envelopes or containers, and seal them. The city or town clerk, then places them in a locked facility and maintain the ballots, without examining them until the expiration of the period fixed for their preservation, at which point, they are destroyed. An election officer shall place the tallied voting list in the envelope and shall be kept separately. The warden and clerk shall sign the certificate. For more information see, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54 § 105 through Mass. Gen. Laws §109A and 950 CMR 54.06.
Additional Targeted Samples
Aside from the provisions calling for escalation upon the discovery of a discrepancy, as noted above, there is no statutory guidance calling for additional targeted samples.