Audit Laws

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Audit Laws

State Summary

Virginia’s audit law, first enacted in 2014 and amended in 2017, is not binding on the official results. Under the amended language, the State Board “shall coordinate a post-election risk-limiting audit annually of ballot scanner machines in use in the Commonwealth.” The word “risk-limiting” notwithstanding, the audit must occur after the recount deadline has passed.

Unless otherwise specified, statutory references are to VA Code Ann. §24.2, “Elections,” Chapter 6, 671.1.

Voting Systems Used

Virginia 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.

Audit Comprehensiveness

While Virginia’s audit law does require a “risk-limiting audit,” it does not specify the types of ballots to be included in the audit. The statute also states: “The localities selected for the audit shall be chosen at random with every locality participating in the Department’s annual audit at least once during a five-year period.”


Virginia’s audit provisions state that “candidates and political parties may have representatives observe the audits” but make no mention of observation by the general public. Additionally, it is unclear whether results are required to be reported publicly.

Audit Counting Method

The audit is conducted by a hand count only. The procedures established by the Department will include its procedures for conducting hand counts of ballots.

Type Of Audit Units

Statute does not specify the type of audit unit, although the audit is described as “of ballot scanner machines in use in the Commonwealth.” Localities performing audits are chosen randomly as described above in “Audit Comprehensiveness.”

In practice in 2018 through 2020, individual ballots have been used as the audit units. Given the ambiguous statutory language, we categorize Virginia as using a “mix” of audit units.

Contests & Issues Audited

No statutory guidance is provided on this matter.

Addressing Discrepancies

Virginia’s audit law requires the local electoral boards and the Department of Elections to submit a report to the State Board of Elections, which “shall include a comparison of the audited election results and the initial tally for each machine audited, and an analysis of any detected discrepancies.” However, there is no mention of actions to be taken should discrepancies be identified. By definition, a risk-limiting audit should expand to a full hand count if necessary to determine the correct outcome.

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


The audit is completed after election results are finalized. “No audit conducted pursuant to this election shall commence until after the election has been certified and the period to initiate a recount has expired without the initiation of a recount. An audit shall have no effect on the election results.”

Binding On Official Outcomes

Virginia’s audit law states specifically that “an audit shall have no effect on the election results.”

Oversight & Conduct

The audits is conducted by local electoral boards and general registrars in accordance with the procedures prescribed by the Department of Elections.

Ballot Protection

All voting machines must be secured until after the period for initiation of a recount has expired. If machine results are recorded on data storage devices, these must be removed and kept in sealed envelopes. Any paper ballots must also be kept in sealed envelopes. For more information see, VA Code § 24.2-657 to VA Code § 24.2-659 and VA Code § 24.2-668 to VA Code § 24.2-669.

Additional Targeted Samples

No statutory guidance is provided on this matter.

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