Wisconsin’s audit legislation is not binding upon election results and cannot be expanded to a full recount. The audit’s only statutory purpose is to determine the error rate of the voting system. Five percent of statewide reporting units are chosen randomly and hand-counted for the audit, with at least one audit conducted in each county. In 2018, the audit was moved to precede certification. The Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) administers the audit.
Unless otherwise specified, statutory references are to Wis. Stat. Ann. §7.08(6).
Voting Systems Used
As of 2020, all jurisdictions use hand marked paper ballots, with some providing DRE voting machines with VVPAT paper records for accessibility, and others ballot marking devices. Jurisdictions in Wisconsin use optical scanners or hand counts for tabulation of paper ballots. 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.
Many but not all machine-tabulated ballots are subject to audit. No mention is made of early, absentee, or provisional ballots in the statute governing audits or in the audit procedures outlined by the Election Commission. The statute requires only that electronic voting systems in each reporting unit be audited.
At least 5% of statewide reporting units (a minimum of 183 total reporting units) are selected for audit. In 2018, no more than two reporting units were chosen per municipality, and municipalities selected as part of the audit were chosen randomly. At least one audit is conducted in each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, and a minimum of five reporting units are selected for each piece of voting equipment that records and tabulates votes.
The audit is open to the public. Statute does not explicitly require the WEC to publish results. In practice, it has done so, although not promptly after the audit is completed.
Audit Counting Method
The audit is conducting using a hand count only.
Type Of Audit Units
Wisconsin audits reporting units, defined as “the ward, combination of wards, or other districts by which votes are tallied.” See, 2018 Post-Election Voting Equipment Audit Procedures.
Contests & Issues Audited
The audit is only conducted after general elections. In 2018, the WEC selected four contests for audit, including the top contest on the ballot. See, 2018 Post-Election Voting Equipment Audit Procedures.
The purpose of the audit is to determine “If the [voting system] error rate exceeds the rate permitted under standards of the federal election commission in effect on October 29, 2002,” in which case “the board shall take remedial action and order remedial action to be taken by affected counties and municipalities to ensure compliance with the standards.” See, Wis. Stat. Ann. §7.08(6). In determining the voting system error rate, votes are counted as the voting equipment would have counted them: “Voter intent is not a factor.” The audit is not expanded. “In the event that a discrepancy between the machine tally and the paper record tally cannot be reasonably explained, WEC will request that the voting equipment manufacturer investigate and explain the reasons for any differences between the machine tally and the paper record tally.” The WEC may then decide to suspend approval of any equipment from any vendor that cannot provide adequate explanations for the discrepancies. See also, 2018 Post-Election Voting Equipment Audit Procedures
For recount laws, see Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota website.
Under a rule adopted in 2018, the audit must be completed prior to certification.
Binding On Official Outcomes
Wisconsin’s audit is not binding upon election results and cannot be expanded to a full recount. The audit’s only statutory purpose is to determine the error rate of the voting system.
Oversight & Conduct
The Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) oversee the audits while local election officials conduct the audits.
During the post-election canvass, Inspectors place all ballots counted by them in a sealed envelope. They take all provisional ballots (cast without required id) cast by them and place them in a separate, sealed envelope which is then signed by the Chief Inspector before being delivered to the central counting place. For more information see, Wis. Stat. §7.37(3), §7.51(3).
Additional Targeted Samples
There is no statutory guidance providing for additional targeted samples.