Skip navigation.

Best Practices: Transparency

Table of Contents

Elections belong to the public. The public must be allowed to observe, verify, and point out procedural mistakes in all phases of the audit without interfering with the process. The following conditions must be met:

a. Detailed auditing procedures are developed well in advance of elections, with reasonable opportunities for public comment. These include procedures for selecting audit units,[5] sorting the paper records and counting the votes, and determining when more units need to be audited and when the audit can end. There is adequate notice to allow the public to witness and verify each phase of the audit.

b. The public is given sufficient access to witness and verify the random selection of the audit as well as the manual count with reasonable opportunities for public comment. Election officials have the authority to prevent the public from hampering the proceedings.

c. Final results are reported to the public immediately and posted on the Web. The results include an analysis of all discrepancies as well as recommendations for improvement. The data on the frequency and source of discrepancies can provide jurisdictions with benchmarks for improvement in future elections.[6]

d. Ideally, a public archive of the audit documents, reports and results is maintained indefinitely in the case of electronic records and for at least two years in the case of paper records.

[5] In post-election audits, each ballot (or paper record) is assigned to an audit unit – a group of paper records from a precinct, counting machine, or batch of ballots. On batches, see the discussion in Best Practice 5e.

[6] In addition to the number of miscounts per machine and the analysis of the source of these discrepancies, it is important to collect and report the number of spoiled ballots, canceled VVPATs, unreadable VVPATs, overvotes, undervotes and voter-mismarked paper ballots (for instance, if the candidate’s name is circled but the oval is left blank).