Washington Audit Information

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This information was updated in January, 2015 using the 2014 version of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) and the 2014 Washington Administrative Code (WAC).


State Summary

Signed into law 2005, the audit law in Washington applies only to DREs and requires three races to be audited. See RCW 29A.60.185. The audit results do not lead to a full recount.  Since the audit law was passed, Washington has become a vote-by-mail state where, in all counties, mailed ballots are counted centrally by optical scan voting equipment, and DREs with VVPATs are only used in vote centers. Most votes in Washington are cast with vote-by-mail ballots, and these ballots are only subject to an optional audit: “A random check of the ballot counting equipment may be conducted upon mutual agreement of the political party observers or at the discretion of the county auditor.” See RCW 29A.60.170(3).


Statutes specify that only designated observers can be present

Statues specify that audit results and data be made public
No statutory guidance allowing observers to verify ballot marks

Observers are allowed during auditing if they have been appropriately registered by those groups allowed to appoint observers. See the Revised Code of Washingtion, RCW 29A.60.185, “Audit of results.”

Voting Systems Used: 

Mixed paper ballot and DREs with VVPAT


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Audit results binding upon official results


See WAC 434-262-105(5) & (6).

Addressing Discrepancies and Continuing the Audit: 

No statutory guidance for expanding the audit  

WAC 434-262-105(5) discusses the procedures for resolving discrepancies when auditing DREs. The regulation states that; “If there is a discrepancy between the electronic results and the paper record results, the canvassing board must take necessary actions to investigate and resolve the discrepancy.” It is not clear whether these actions would include an expansion of the audit.

Audit Comprehensiveness: 

Early voted ballots included in the audit

Absentee ballots included in the audit

No statutory guidance for ballots counted by hand on election day to be included in audit


Audits of DREs include early voted ballots cast in vote centers.  Optional audits under RCW 29A.60.170(3) include absentee and vote-by-mail ballots counted by election day.

Additional Targeted Samples: 

Election officials my choose additional targeted samples


“A random check of the ballot counting equipment may be conducted… at the discretion of the county auditor.” See RCW 29A.60.170(3).

Contests and Issues Audited: 

Randomly selected election contests or ballots issue are audited

Primary elections audited


For audits conducted under RCW 29A.60.185, three election contests or ballot issues are randomly selected to be audited on each DRE voting machine. There are no restrictions mentioned on the type of contest which may be selected.   For optional audits conducted under RCW 29A.60.170(3), “The random check will be limited to one office or issue on the ballots in the precincts or batches that are selected for the check.”

Type of Audit Units: 





For audits of DREs conducted under RCW 29A.60.185, the "audit must be conducted by randomly selecting by lot up to four percent of the direct recording electronic voting devices or one direct recording electronic voting device, whichever is greater….”

For optional audits conducted under RCW 29A.60.170(3), “The random check… may involve up to either three precincts or six batches depending on the ballot counting procedures in place in the county.”

Counting Method: 

Mix of machine and hand count


Washington is unique in the manner in which it divides some ballots to be audited by hand and some by machine. For audits conducted under RCW 29A.60.185, a manual count is done for the VVPATs on one-fourth of the DRE machines to be audited. On the remaining three-fourths of machines, the counting may  be done by “mechanical device.”  For optional audits under RCW 29A.60.170(3), the ballots are counted manually.

Oversight and Conduct of Audit:

The audit is overseen by the Secretary of State, but the random selection is conducted at the county level and the audit is conducted by the County Auditor.


Timeline for Audit:

For audits conducted RCW 29A.60.185, the audits must be conducted prior to the certification of the election.  RCW 29A.60.190 provides that; “Fourteen days after a primary or special election and twenty-one days after a general election, the county canvassing board shall complete the canvass and certify the results.”

For optional audits under RCW 29A.60.170(3), the manual count must be completed “no later than forty-eight hours after election day.”