After each primary election, general election and special election, counties may choose to conduct a traditional “hand count audit” or a risk-limiting audit. The “hand count” audit depends on margin of victory: if margin of victory is less than 1% of the total votes cast, 10% of all precincts are hand counted; if margin of victory is between 1% and 2%, 5% of all precincts; margin of victory 2% or greater, 3% of all precincts are hand counted. The audit must begin no later than the 23rd day after the election, and be completed within 30 days after the election. See, O.R.S. §254.529.
Statutory requirements governing a risk-limiting audit appear in O.R.S. §254.532. If the county clerk makes a determination to conduct a risk-limiting audit, the county clerk shall conduct a risk-limiting audit for one or more single-county election contests. For an election contest involving more than one county, the county clerk may request that the Secretary of State or the county clerks in the other counties holding the election coordinate for the purpose of conducting a multi-county risk-limiting audit.
Unless otherwise specified, statutory references are to O.R.S. §254.529.
Voting Systems Used
As of 2020, Oregon is an all mail ballot state with ballot marking devices for accessibility. Most ballots are tabulated by central-count optical scanners. 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.
Oregon is a vote-by-mail state and also uses absentee ballots for military voters or for those voters out of state during an election. Provisional and absentee ballots are not specifically mentioned in the audit provisions. However, according to the office of the Oregon Secretary of State, where vote tally systems are used, these ballots are included in the audit.
Members of the public may observe the audit. While candidates and sponsors of ballot measures are notified by mail of the audit, there are no provisions specifying if they are allowed appointed observers, or their ability to observe and verify ballot marks. See, OAR 165-007-0290(6). Results of the audit are to be made publicly available on the Secretary of State’s website. See, O.R.S. §254.529(5).
Audit Counting Method
The audit is conducted manually.
Type Of Audit Units
For hand count audits, precincts/batches are used. For risk-limiting audits, the type is not specified, but presumably individual ballots will be sampled.
Contests & Issues Audited
If a traditional hand count audit is chosen, the counties shall audit the race between the two candidates receiving the largest number of votes in the county, an election contest for an office to be voted on in the state at large and, if possible, an election contest for a state measure. The Secretary of State shall select the precincts or batches at random. O.R.S. §254.529.
In hand count audits: If the audit of the initial sample identifies a discrepancy greater than 0.5%, the random sample is audited by hand again. If this second audit shows a discrepancy equal to or less than 0.5%, the initial tally is the official result. If the second audit still shows a discrepancy greater than 0.5%, all ballots for that vote tally system are to be audited, and the result of this final manual count is the official result. (The statute provides no mechanism for an audit of a statewide contest to expand to a full hand count beyond any counties in which such discrepancies are found.)
In a risk-limiting audit, discrepancies may cause an audit to expand until the risk limit is attained, or to a full hand count if necessary.
For recount laws, see Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota website.
The audit must begin no later than the twenty-third (23rd) day after the election, and be completed within thirty (30) days after the election. However, the random selection is to be conducted no later than 5 p.m. on the fifteenth (15th) business day after the day of the general election. In addition, the manual audit cannot begin until after certification of the initial election results (which does not preclude altering the results). See, OAR 165-007-0290(4).
Binding On Official Outcomes
In hand count audits, if a third hand count is conducted for the audit, the results of the audit are the official results of the election. (However, the audit cannot directly trigger a statewide hand count.) Risk-limiting audits are implied (but not explicitly stated) to be binding on outcomes.
Oversight & Conduct
The Secretary of State oversees the audit and conducts the random selection, while county clerks conduct the audit.
A security plan shall be submitted to the Secretary of State Elections Division, not later than the 31st of January of each year. The county clerk shall retain custody of the ballots and provide for security for the ballots and the information required to be collected under this subsection. As soon as practicable after the final day permitted for a contest of the election or for filing a demand for a recount, the county clerk shall destroy all unused ballots. County officials are also required to prepare a County Election Security Plan, including providing for security of ballots at the printer, in storage, during transport, at drop sites, voted ballots awaiting verification, voted ballots opened and inspected, etc. and post-election security. For more information see, O.R.S. § 254.529; O.R.S. § 254.483; and OR Rule 165-007-0310