Signed into law in 2004, Minnesota’s statutes refer to the state’s audit as a “post-election review.” The audit is binding upon the official election results and can lead to a full recount (but is waived for a contest that will be subject to a recount). It entails a hand count of, in most cases, at least 3% of precincts in each county (see “Types of Audit Units” below) in specified major contests (see “Contests”), with discretion to audit additional contests.
Unless otherwise specified, statutory references are to Minn. Stat. Ann. §206.89, “Post-election Review of Voting Systems.”
Voting Systems Used
As of 2020, Minnesota primarily uses hand marked paper ballots and optical scanners 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.
“The ballots to be reviewed for a precinct include both the ballots counted at the polling place for that precinct and the absentee ballots counted centrally by a ballot board for that precinct.” Statute does not explicitly state whether provisional ballots are included.
The audit must be conducted publicly. See, Minn. Stat. Ann. §206.89 (3). Publishing audit results is governed by the “Data Practices Act,” Minn. Stat. Ann. §13.01. More specifically, the 2018 Post-Election Review Guide, page 22, states that “The OSS will post individual precinct results from the post-election review at the Post-Election review webpage” located here. Audits are required to follow the same rules established for recounts, which allow for candidates to appoint observers who are allowed to verify marks on the ballot. See, Minn. Stat. Ann. §206.89(3) and Rule 8235.0800.
Audit Counting Method
County election officials are required to follow the counting method described in Minn. Stat. Ann. §204C.21.
Type Of Audit Units
Minnesota uses a traditional audit approach. The number of precincts to be audited varies by the number of registered voters in the county. In the smallest counties, at least two (2) precincts must be counted, and at least one precinct must have at least one-hundred and fifty (150) votes cast in the election. In the largest counties, at least four precincts per county, or 3% of the precincts, whichever is greater, must be audited.
Contests & Issues Audited
Contests for the governor’s office, United States’ congressional and senate contests, and presidential contests must all be audited when they occur. Additional contests may be audited at the discretion of election officials. The audit is required for state general elections only.
“If the post-election review in one of the reviewed precincts reveals a difference greater than 0.5%, or greater than two (2) votes in a precinct where four hundred (400) or fewer voters cast ballots, the post-election review official must, within two days, conduct an additional review of the races indicated in at least three (3) precincts in the same jurisdiction where the discrepancy was discovered.”
“If the second review in any of the reviewed precincts also indicates a difference in the vote totals compiled by the voting system that is greater than 0.5% from the result indicated by the post-election review, or greater than two (2) votes in a precinct where four hundred (400) or fewer voters cast ballots, the county auditor must conduct a review of the ballots from all the remaining precincts in the county for the races indicated.”
“If the results from the countywide reviews from one or more counties comprising in the aggregate more than ten percent of the total number of persons voting in the election clearly indicate that an error in vote counting has occurred, the Secretary of State must notify the post-election review official of each county in the district that they must conduct manual recounts of all the ballots in the district for the affected office using the procedure outlined in section 204C.35.”
For recount laws, see Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota website.
The county auditor must immediately submit the results of the post-election review electronically or in writing to the Secretary of State not later than two (2) days before the State Canvassing Board meets to canvass the state general election.
Binding On Official Outcomes
The audit is conducted before the canvass (no later than two days before the state canvassing board meets to certify the election) and audit results are binding upon the official results.
Oversight & Conduct
The Secretary of State oversees the audit while the county election officials conduct the audit. The random selection is conducted by the county canvassing board.
The election judges in each precinct deliver the envelopes containing the ballots either directly to the municipal clerk for transmittal to or directly to the county auditor’s office as soon as possible after the vote counting is completed but no later than twenty-four (24) hours after the end of the hours for voting. County auditors, municipal clerks, and school district clerks must retain all election materials returned to them after any election for at least twenty-two (22) months. See, Minn. Stat. Ann. § 204B.29; Minn. Stat. Ann. § 204B.40; Minn. Stat. Ann. § 204C.27; Minn. Stat. Ann. § 204C.24; Minn. Stat. Ann. § 206.86.
Additional Targeted Samples
“If the selection of precincts has not resulted in the selection of at least four precincts in each congressional district, the Secretary of State may require counties to select by lot additional precincts” to be audited. See, Minn. Stat. Ann. §206.89 (2).In addition, Minn. Stat. Ann. §206.88 states that the “Secretary of State may conduct a recount to verify the accuracy of vote counting and recording in one or more precincts in which an electronic voting system was used in the election.”