Audit Laws

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Audit Laws

State Summary

Under RCW §29A.60.185, the county auditor shall conduct a post-election audit using at minimum one of the following methods: (1) an audit of results of votes cast on direct recording electronic voting devices, or other in-person ballot marking systems, if there are races or issues with more than ten votes cast on all direct recording electronic voting devices or other in-person ballot marking systems in the county; (2) A random check of the ballot counting equipment consistent with RCW §29A.60.170(3); (3) A risk-limiting audit; (4) An independent electronic audit of the original ballot counting equipment used in the county.

A random check (option 2) “may involve up to three precincts or six batches,” and one office or issue. In counties that utilize risk-limiting audits, the RLA will continue until the risk limit for the target contests is met or until a full hand count results. Additionally, the county auditor must conduct an audit of ballots duplicated under RCW §29A.60.125. The audit is to be completed prior to certification.

Unless otherwise specified, statutory references are to RCW §29A.60.185.

Voting Systems Used

As of 2020, Washington is primarily a mail ballot state. In vote centers, hand marked paper ballots with optical scanners are the primary voting method, with ballot marking devices or DRE voting machines with VVPAT paper records 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

The kinds of ballots to be audited depend on the method chosen by the county auditor.


Public observation is allowed and the Secretary of State reports the results.

Audit Counting Method

For risk-limiting audits conducted, ballots are audited manually. If a county decides to audit DREs, a manual count is done for the VVPATs on one-fourth of the DRE machines to be audited. On the remaining three-fourths (3/4) of machines, the counting may be done by “mechanical device.”

Type Of Audit Units

The type of audit unit depends on the audit method selected.

Contests & Issues Audited

RLA: random selection of at least one statewide contest (if no statewide contest is on the ballot, county auditor shall randomly select contest to audit) and for each county at least one ballot contest other than the selected statewide contest.

DRE: random selection of up to four percent of the direct recording electronic voting devices or other in-person ballot marking systems, or one direct recording electronic voting device or other in-person ballot marking system, whichever is greater, and, for each device or system, comparing the results recorded electronically with the results recorded on paper seemingly for all contests.

In counties conducting comparison audits, each randomly selected ballot must be examined and voter markings or choices in all contests must be reported using the RLA tool or other means specified by the Secretary of State.

Additionally, in counties conducting ballot polling audits, the audit board must examine and report the voter markings or choices in only the target contest on each randomly selected ballot in a form approved by the Secretary of State. See WAC § 434-261-117.

Addressing Discrepancies

For each audit method, the Secretary of State must adopt procedures for expanding the audit to include additional ballots when an audit results in a discrepancy. The procedure must specify under what circumstances a discrepancy will lead to an audit of additional ballots, and the method to determine how many additional ballots will be selected. The Secretary of State shall adopt procedures to investigate the cause of any discrepancy found during an audit.

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


Audits are to be completed prior to certification.

Binding On Official Outcomes

Statute does not specify whether audit results are binding on results or can change outcomes.

Oversight & Conduct

The audit is overseen by the Secretary of State, but conducted at the county level.

Ballot Protection

Ballots shall not leave the custody of the canvassing board. Secure storage must employ the use of numbered seals and logs, or other security measures, that document each individual’s access to the voted ballots or voted ballot images, and detect inappropriate access to the secure storage. Unsecured ballots must be accompanied by at least two county auditor staff at all times.The county must maintain and document uninterrupted chain-of-custody for each ballot storage container. For more information see, RCW § 29A.04.580; RCW § 29A.60.110; WAC 434-261-045; and WAC 434-261-116

Additional Targeted Samples

The statute does not provide for targeted samples.


RCW §29A.60.185

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