Minnesota

Minnesota

Audit Laws

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Audit Laws

State Summary

Minnesota’s statute, which refers to the state’s audit as a post-election review, was signed into law in 2004. The audit is binding upon the official election results and can lead to a full recount, although no audit is required if the contest is subject to a recount. The audit entails a hand count of at least 3% of precincts in each county, chosen by lot (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.

Voting Systems Used

Minnesota counties use 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.

Audit Comprehensiveness

Statute specifies that the audit includes ballots counted at the polling place for a selected precinct as well as the absentee ballots counted centrally by a ballot board for the selected precinct. (Minn. Stat. § 206.89.2.) Statute does not explicitly state whether provisional ballots are included.

Transparency

The audit must be conducted publicly. (Minn. Stat. § 206.89.3.)  The Secretary of State posts individual precinct results from the audit on its “Post-Election Reviews” webpage. Audits must be conducted in the manner provided for recounts in Minn. Stat. § 204C.361, to the greatest extent practicable.

Audit Counting Method

The post-election review official (hereinafter “audit official”) for each precinct selected, along with any designated election judges, is required to conduct a manual review of the ballots following the counting method described in Minn. Stat. Ann. §204C.21.

Type Of Audit Units

The number of precincts audited varies by the number of registered voters in the county: In counties with fewer than 50,000 registered voters, at least two precincts must be audited, in counties with 50,000 and 100,000 registered voters, at least three precincts must be audited, and in counties with more than 100,000 registered voters, at least four precincts or three percent of the total number of precincts in the county, whichever is greater, must be audited. At least one precinct selected in each county must have at least 150 votes cast in the election. (Minn. Stat. § 206.89.2.)

Contests & Issues Audited

Contests for president or governor, U.S. senate, and U.S. representative must all be audited when they occur. Additional offices may be audited at the discretion of election officials. The audit is required for state general elections only. (Minn. Stat. § 206.89.2.)

Addressing Discrepancies

If the audit in one of the audited precincts reveals a difference greater than the thresholds specified in Minn. Stat. § 206.89.4, the audit official must, within two days, conduct an additional audit of the races indicated in Minn. Stat. § 206.89.3 in at least three precincts in the same jurisdiction in which the discrepancy was discovered, unless all precincts in that jurisdiction have been audited, in which case the county auditor must immediately publicly select by lot at least three additional precincts for review. (Minn. Stat. § 206.89.5.) If the second audit in any of the audited precincts also indicates a difference in the vote totals compiled by the voting system that is greater than the thresholds specified in §206.89.4, the county auditor must conduct an audit of the ballots from all the remaining precincts in the county for the races indicated in §206.86.3. 

If the results from the countywide audits from one or more counties comprising more than 10% of the total number of voters 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 that they must conduct manual recounts of all the ballots for the affected office using the procedure outlined in § 204C.35.

For recount laws, see Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota website.

Timeline

The audit is required to take place between the 11th day after the state general election and the 18th day after the state general election. Upon receiving the results of the audit, the county auditor must immediately submit the results to the secretary of state; this can be electronically or in writing and must occur no later than two days before the State Canvassing Board meets to canvass the state general election. (Minn. Stat. § 206.89.6.)

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 county canvassing board appoints the audit official, who is the county auditor, unless the county auditor designates the municipal clerk. (Minn. Stat. § 206.89.1.) The secretary of state oversees the audit while the county election officials conduct the audit. The county canvassing board conducts the random selection of precincts to be audited by lot. (§ 206.89.2).

Ballot Protection

The election judge(s) in each precinct must deliver the envelopes containing the ballots either directly to the municipal clerk for transmission to or directly to the county auditor’s office as soon as possible after the vote counting is completed but no later than 24 hours after the polls have closed. (Minn. Stat. §204C.27.) County auditors, municipal clerks, and school district clerks must retain all election materials returned to them after any election for at least 22 months from the date of the election. (Minn. Stat. §204B.40.)

Additional Targeted Samples

If the selection of precincts does not result 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. (Minn. Stat. §206.89.2) .The secretary of state may also conduct a recount to verify the accuracy of vote counting and recording in one or more precincts in which a ballot marking device was used in the election.

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