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Best Practices: Chain of Custody and Ballot Accounting

Table of Contents

Robust ballot accounting and secure chain of custody of election materials and equipment are prerequisites for good post-election audits. The following conditions must be met:

a. There are strict written accounting procedures for paper records to prevent the addition, subtraction, substitution, or alteration of paper records.

b. To safeguard the ballots and audit records from loss and tampering, paper records and electronic equipment are fully secured[7] at all times when a breach could adversely affect the integrity of the records including from the time the votes are cast until all audit or recount activity is completed and election results are finalized.[8]

c. The audit begins as soon as possible after the random selection of audit units, which commences as soon as possible after the initial tallies recorded by the voting system are reported. (In some circumstances the audit may be conducted in phases as discussed in Best Practice 5e.)

d. The secrecy of the ballot is preserved; the order of the votes cast is never compared to the order in which the voters signed in.

e. There is a reconciliation to ensure that all votes from all audit units are correctly tabulated in the election totals.

[7] Procedures regulating access to ballots and equipment could include requiring signatures for access and documenting the reason for it, preventing access by a single person, requiring that access be observed by members of opposing parties, or the use of surveillance cameras to guard storage areas.

[8] This includes the expiration of all legal recourse to challenge or correct the election.