Utah’s audit statute specifically addresses auditing signature affidavits; however, Utah counties also conduct post-election audits of ballot tabulation machines. The purpose of Utah’s current audit is “to ensure that the scanners have accurately counted the ballots.” State of Utah Election Audit Policy (2023) (unpublished).The audit is not binding on the official election results and cannot lead to a full recount. The current audit policy, updated since its original 2006 version, calls for counties to audit 1% of their ballots, up to 1,000 ballots, with at least one batch audited from each scanner used in the election. Counties must audit a minimum of 50 ballots. One percent of ballots cast on Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines, which are used in Salt Lake County, and a minimum of one machine per polling place are reviewed.
In 2022, the legislature required the lieutenant governor to study post-election audit methods, including evaluating risk-limiting audits (RLAs). Utah Code § 20A-1-108.
Unless otherwise specified, references are to the State of Utah Election Audit Policy (2023) (unpublished; hereinafter “2023 Election Audit Policy”).
Voting Systems Used
Most Utah voters vote by mail. In most jurisdictions, in-person voters use hand-marked paper ballots and optical scanners with ballot marking devices; however, Salt Lake County uses direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines with voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) printers. 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.
Utah’s 2023 Election Audit Policy states that the audit consists of 1% of “all ballots” in batches, implying that ballots cast during early voting are included in the audit. Additionally, at least one batch of ballots “from each scanner that was used” must be included in the audit. 2023 Election Audit Policy. When a partial batch of ballots is selected, counties that scan by batch must audit the complete batch. In Salt Lake County, which uses DRE voting machines, selected races on the tape from the machine selected for audit are compared to the results from the summary report as printed from the DRE or the Election Management System (EMS). One percent of ballots cast on DREs and a minimum of one machine per polling place are reviewed. 2023 Election Audit Policy.
The audit must be conducted in a public setting that is properly posted on the county website and the public notice website at least 48 hours before the audit. 2023 Election Audit Policy. The audit must also be viewable by the public and can be projected to large screens or monitors, if needed. 2023 Election Audit Policy; see also Utah Code § 20A-3a-801. Counties are required to include the results of their audit in their canvass materials.
Audit Counting Method
The audit of the DRE voting machines is manual. 2023 Election Audit Policy. The audit of paper ballots, however, may be conducted by hand or by examining ballot images on screens using the county’s EMS. Office of the Legislative Auditor General, A Performance Audit of Utah’s Election System and Controls 56–57 (2022).
Type Of Audit Units
The audit samples 1% of all ballots in random batches up to 1,000 ballots, with at least one batch audited from each scanner used in the election. 2023 Election Audit Policy. If a partial batch is selected for audit, counties that scan by batch must audit the complete batch. One percent of ballots cast on DREs, which are only used in Salt Lake County, are selected for audit. At least one machine per polling place must be selected. 2023 Election Audit Policy; see also 2022 Legislative Audit § 5.1.
Contests & Issues Audited
After every general election, election officers audit the highest federal race on the ballot, the governor’s race (if on the ballot), a state legislative race, a countywide race, a ballot proposition, and any race within a 5% margin at the time of the audit. 2023 Election Audit Policy; see also Utah Code § 20A-1-102. After each primary and municipal election, officers audit all races on the ballots being audited. 2023 Election Audit Policy.
If an audit for a recount is conducted (meaning that a separate audit takes place as part of a recount), the audit consists of 3% of all ballots for the recount and 3% of ballots cast on DREs (if used) up to 1,000 ballots.
The 2023 Election Audit Policy states that cast vote records are used to verify that the machines properly interpreted each vote and that there is not a discrepancy between the ballot, the image of the ballot, and how the ballot was counted. However, there are no instructions for addressing discrepancies.
For recount laws, see Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota website.
No later than 5 pm on the Thursday following the election, each election officer provides to the lieutenant governor a list containing the necessary batch information for the audit. This list should include a batch control number, the number of ballots in the batch, and an identifier for the scanner on which they were tabulated. 2023 Election Audit Policy.
Audits can be performed after 12 pm on the sixth day following an election and must be completed prior to canvassing the results. 2023 Election Audit Policy.
Binding On Official Outcomes
The audit results are not binding upon official election results and cannot affect outcomes. See 2022 Legislative Audit § 5.1.
Oversight & Conduct
The Office of the Lieutenant Governor oversees the audit and conducts the random selection, while local election officials conduct the audit. Until 2022, the lieutenant governor’s authority over elections was unclear; H.B. 448 clarified that the lieutenant governor is the chief election officer in the state and is responsible for overseeing and supervising all elections and election functions. Utah Code § 20A-1-105; see also Utah Code § 67-1a-2.
At least two poll workers must be present when collecting ballots from a ballot drop box and delivering the ballots to the location where the ballots will be opened and counted. Utah Code § 20A-5-403.5(7). Election officers must also record and track ballot chain-of-custody from the time the ballots are removed from the ballot box to the ballots are delivered to the location where the ballots are opened and counted. Upon receiving ballots, poll workers must immediately count the number of ballots received and divide the ballots into batches. H.B. 448, 2023 Leg., (Utah 2023).
Ballots and election returns (poll books, tally sheets, unprocessed or unused ballots, spoiled ballots, etc.) must be sealed and locked in a safe and secure place. Utah Code § 20A-4-202. Additionally, ballots must be preserved for 22 months after the election or until the time has expired during which the ballots could be used in an election contest. Utah Code § 20A-4-202.
In 2022, the legislature also empowered the director of elections to establish administrative rules regarding the custody, documentation of custody, handling, processing, disposition, and tabulation of ballots. Utah Code § 20A-3a-404; see also Utah Admin. Code r. 623-8. Beginning in November 2022, election officers must include a signed affidavit with all election returns that certifies compliance with the administrative rules.
Additional Targeted Samples
Utah’s election code does not provide for targeted samples.
2023 Election Audit Policy
Utah Code § 20A-3a-404 (ballot protection)
Utah Code § 20A-5-403.5 (ballot protection)
Utah Code § 20A-1-102 (definitions)
Utah Admin. Code r. 623-8 (administrative rule)
Last updated: October 2023