Massachusetts Audit Information

This information was updated in September 2015 using the General Laws of Massachusetts including all amendments passed through June 30th, 2014.

State Summary

Massachusetts passed its audit law in 2014.  It will be used for the first time in the presidential general election of 2016.  All references below are to Part 1, Title VIII, Chapter 54, Section 109A of the Massachusetts General Laws.

Transparency: 

Statutes specify that audits must be conducted publicly
Statutes require that audit results and data be made public
Statutes specify that observers can verify ballot marks

The audits are performed in full public view. See 109A(d)(1). 

“The precincts to be audited shall be chosen in a random, publicly verifiable, non-computerized drawing…. The drawing shall be fully observable to the public and representatives of each political party and shall use a procedure that can be easily understood to be random by members of the public.” See 109A(c).

The state secretary must make the audit reports publicly available as soon as practicable, but not later than 10 days after receipt of the audit report form. See 109A(i)(1).

Voting Systems Used: 

Paper ballot (optical scanners, hand counted paper ballots, or a mix) 

For more details, visit Verified Voting. 

Binding: 

Audit results binding upon official results 

If there is a discrepancy between the audit and the originally reported tallies, the hand count of the paper ballots conducted pursuant to the audit shall be the official vote of record.  See109A(g). 

Addressing Discrepancies and Continuing the Audit: 

Statutes specify criteria to expand the audit (up to a full recount)

“If there is a discrepancy between the results reached in a precinct pursuant to an audit and the originally reported tallies in that precinct in any audited race or any audited ballot question that reasonably leads to doubt about the outcome of the election or systemic failure to accurately count ballots, the state secretary may order audits of additional precincts, offices or ballot questions as shall be necessary to ensure that the outcome of the election is accurate and that the cause of the systemic failure is identified.”  See 109A(h).

Audit Comprehensiveness: 

Early voted ballots included in audit
Absentee ballots included in audit
Provisional ballots included in the audit

“The board of registrars or election commission” in the relevant municipality shall conduct the audit  and each precinct selected for the audit shall conduct a hand-counted audit of votes cast on the day of election. See 109A(d)(1) and 109A(b)(1). According to the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, the audit will include absentee, provisional and early voted ballots.

Additional Targeted Samples: 

No statutory guidance for additional targeted samples

Aside from the provisions calling for escalation upon the discovery of a discrepancy, as noted above, there is no statutory guidance calling for additional targeted samples.

Contests and Issues Audited: 

Predetermined election contests or ballot issues are audited
Randomly selected contests or ballot issues are audited
Local election contests audited
Statewide election contests audited
Federal election contests audited
 

The audit will include “races in which more than 1 candidate's name appears on the ballot for president and vice president, representative in congress, senator in congress, representative in the general court and senator in the general court….” The audit will also include a statewide ballot question, if any appear on the ballot, chosen by random drawing. See 109A(b)(1).

In precincts selected for the audit, races that are subject to a recount will not be audited. See 109A(b)(2).

Type of Audit Units: 

Precincts/districts

"The number of precincts selected to be audited in this drawing shall be equal to 3 per cent of all precincts in the commonwealth, rounded up to the next highest whole number." See 109A(c).

Counting Method: 

Hand count only

“The board of registrars or election commission” in the relevant municipality shall conduct the audit and each precinct selected for the audit shall conduct a hand-counted audit of votes cast on the day of election. See 109A(d)(1) and 109A(b)(1).  According to the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, the audit will include a hand count of absentee, provisional and early voted ballots.

Oversight and Conduct of Audit:
The random drawing is conducted by the state secretary. The board of registrars or election commission in a municipality conducts the audit. See 109A(b)(3) and (d)(1).

Timeline for Audit: 
The random selection of the precincts is conducted within 48 hours after the polls are closed. The audits must begin no later than 2 business days following the random selection of the precincts. “The registrars shall submit the completed audit report forms to the state secretary not later than 14 days following the election.”  See 109A(c), (d)(1) and (e).