Here’s an overview of North Carolina’s laws on initial counting of the vote, auditing the vote and recounting the vote. Audits use the paper ballots and paper trails or VVPATS.
Recounts are initially machine re-run, for optical and touchscreen/direct record.
If a recount doesn’t change the results, either the winner or loser can request a hand to eye count of optical scan paper ballot and touchscreen paper trails. Recounts are initially tiny! If there’s a discrepancy, it is expanded.
Initial Counts – North Carolina counties count the vote using either paper ballot optical scan machines or touchscreen voting machines with a VVPAT paper trail to tally the vote.
Audits – In a General Election, one statewide contest will be audited, but if there is a Presidential contest, that contest will be the one audited. When there is no statewide contest, a district or local contest will be audited. Audits are done of a small sample of the paper ballots and paper trails compared to the digital count.
In § 163-182.2. (b) Procedures and Standards says (1) Provide for a sample hand-to-eye count of the paper ballots or paper records of a statewide ballot item in every county.
Recounts – The State Board of Elections sets the “rules” for recounts. Initial recounts can be machine recounts. If the recount doesn’t change the outcome, candidates can then request a manual recount of the paper ballot or record.
Recounts or Reruns? Initially, the software is just re-run. Only with certain exceptions will the voter verified paper trail be re-counted.
numbered-memo-2016-28-statewide-recount-guidance – “The election official will use the vendor software to re-tabulate the results from this audit and vote data and print out two result reports”.
Law: § 163-182.7A. Additional provisions for hand-to-eye recounts. (a) The rules promulgated by the State Board of Elections for recounts shall provide that if the initial recount is not hand-to-eye, and if the recount does not reverse the results, the candidate who had originally been entitled to a recount may, within 24 hours of the completion of the first recount, demand a second recount on a hand-to-eye basis in a sample of precincts. If the initial recount was not hand-to-eye and it reversed the results, the candidate who had initially been the winner shall have the same right to ask for a hand-to-eye recount in a sample of precincts.
The initial recount is small! “For a statewide ballot item, one-half of one percent (0.5%) of the votes cast in the ballot item, or 10,000 votes, whichever is less” per § 163-182.7. Ordering recounts. (C)(2)
MORE DETAIL ON INITIAL COUNTS, AUDITS & RECOUNTS
Initial Counting – both touchscreens and optical scanners do an electronic tally of the vote. The Board of Elections will rely on this count unless a discrepancy is found during a recount or audit – then the paper record will “control” unless lost or destroyed.
§ 163-182.2. Initial counting of official ballots
(a) The initial counting of official ballots shall be conducted according to the following principles:
(6) In counties that use any certified mechanical or electronic voting system, subject to the sample counts under G.S. 163-182.1 and subdivision (1a) of subsection (b) of this section, and of a hand-to-eye recount under G.S. 163-182.7 and G.S. 163-182.7A, a board of elections shall rely in its canvass on the mechanical or electronic count of the vote rather than the full hand-to-eye count of the paper ballots or records. In the event of a material discrepancy between the electronic or mechanical count and a hand-to-eye count or recount, the hand-to-eye count or recount shall control, except where paper ballots or records have been lost or destroyed or where there is another reasonable basis to conclude that the hand-to-eye count is not the true count.
The Law regarding Post Election Audits is found under “Initial Counting”:
(b) The State Board of Elections shall promulgate rules for the initial counting of official ballots. All election officials shall be governed by those rules. In promulgating those rules, the State Board shall adhere to the following guidelines:
(1) For each voting system used, the rules shall specify the role of precinct officials and of the county board of elections in the initial counting of official ballots. G.S. 163-182.2 Page 2
(1a) (Effective until January 1, 2018) For optical scan and direct record electronic voting systems, and for any other voting systems in which ballots are counted other than on paper by hand and eye, those rules shall provide for a sample hand-to-eye count of the paper ballots or paper records of a sampling of a statewide ballot item in every county. The presidential ballot item shall be the subject of the sampling in a presidential election. If there is no statewide ballot item, the State Board shall provide a process for selecting district or local ballot items to adequately sample the electorate. The State Board shall approve in an open meeting the procedure for randomly selecting the sample precincts for each election. The random selection of precincts for any county shall be done publicly after the initial count of election returns for that county is publicly released or 24 hours after the polls close on election day, whichever is earlier. The sample chosen by the State Board shall be of one or more full precincts, full counts of mailed absentee ballots, and full counts of one or more one-stop early voting sites. The size of the sample of each category shall be chosen to produce a statistically significant result and shall be chosen after consultation with a statistician. The actual units shall be chosen at random. In the event of a material discrepancy between the electronic or mechanical count and a hand-to-eye count, the hand-to-eye count shall control, except where paper ballots or records have been lost or destroyed or where there is another reasonable basis to conclude that the hand-to-eye count is not the true count. If the discrepancy between the hand-to-eye count and the mechanical or electronic count is significant, a complete hand-to-eye count shall be conducted. The sample count need not be done on election night.
The NC State Board of Elections sent counties these rules for the audit in this memo
North Carolina’s complete section of election law here (pdf)
The State Board of Elections sent the counties a memo instructing them on how do do recount for optical scan ballots and touchscreen voting systems.It includes special instructions for touchscreens/DREs:
Special Procedures for DRE Voting Equipment
1. Insure that all flash cards from all iVotronic machines used in the election are accounted for and secure.
2. After backing up a copy of the ERM canvass data, clear all election results from ERM. (Be sure to include all sources of results data as well as the results itself.)
3. Collect all flash card data into ERM. (“Collect Audit Data” will place a “V(serial #).ebn” file for each voting machine in the “elecdata\election name” folder. If the “Import Compact Flash Audit Data” feature is used, the data will be placed in the “elecdata\election name\gngflash\adt” subfolder.)
4. Verify that there are .ebn files present for each flash card/iVotronic machine. (From the DOS prompt a list of files can be printed. This is useful documentation to work from and to have at the recount.)
5. For counties where DRE equipment was used, the Master PEBs are required to be preserved as they existed at the end of the November 8, 2016 election (SBE 2010-11). The Master PEBs must not be erased or overwritten in the recount. To conduct the recount, a supervisor PEB from each polling location or one-stop site should be used to collect the data from all of the terminals used at that location.
1. The election official will demonstrate how the audit and vote data was retrieved from flash cards prior to the canvass.
2. The election official will show all observers the directory displaying the serial numbers for all equipment used in the election.
3. Announce the number of iVotronic machines used in the election and confirm that the flash card files match this number and that all serial numbers have been compared. (Having a printout of the ebn files is very useful.)
4. The election official will use the vendor software to re-tabulate the results from this audit and vote data and print out two result reports. Remove from the coded ballots, any ballots not to be counted.
5. Two bipartisan groups made up of one election official from each party will compare these results to the original election results by the process of one person calling out the numbers to the other who will verify that it is the same.
6. If ballots must be removed as determined ineligible during Canvass (disapproved provisional or unverified same-day-registrations), coded ballots must be processed according to instructions and ballots removed that are not to be counted.
7. Verify that the public count is correct, i.e., the same as at the Canvass.
8. Print results only for the contest(s) subject to the recount.
9. Compare the recount results with that of the Official Canvass. (This should be done in a transparent and bipartisan manner.)
10. If any differences are found between the original totals and the recounted totals, then the county board will follow the guidelines in 8 NCAC 09.0108.
North Carolina has had two major changes to election law, in 2005 then in 2013.
Changes: In 2005, The Public Confidence In Elections Act mandated a voter verified paper ballot/record for optical scanners AND touchscreens. Further, it mandated post election audits to compare the voter verified paper record against the digital count.
Then in 2013 HB 589 VIVA Election Reform was passed, mandating photo ID, eliminating Same Day Registration. Photo ID requirements were struck down by the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.