Sunday November 29th, 2020 2:53PM

EXPLAINER: What's with all the election audits?

By The Associated Press

As they seek to overturn — or at least cast doubts on — the results of the Nov. 3 presidential election, President Donald Trump and his Republican allies have zeroed in on a routine and common process: post-election audits.

Until now, the Trump campaign's flurry of legal challenges hasn't unearthed any evidence of widespread voter fraud, and election experts as well as state and federal officials have said there was none.

Still, Trump and Republicans are calling for audits in states where the president lost, even as they dismiss the results of audits that were already completed.


Most states have laws requiring audits after elections, regardless of the margin of victory. That's not because they think something is wrong. They just want to make sure voting equipment functioned properly and election procedures were followed.

Usually, officials will take part of their paper ballots and match them against results from their electronic voting machines. That's to make sure there are no errors or potential instances of fraud.

If there are discrepancies, state laws trigger a more thorough accounting of votes, although how that's done varies by state.

A post-election audit is different from a recount, which happens when there are a small number of votes separating the candidates or when requested by a candidate.


It's happening in several states at once.

In Arizona, where President-elect Joe Biden won, the state Republican Party asked for a new hand count of a sample of ballots in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and is where most of the state's population lives. The reasons cited? Lawyers for the GOP say they want to see if voting machines were hacked, even though there is no evidence of fraud or hacking of voting machines in Arizona.

The request came after the county had already finished its own audit and found no problems after a hand-count of ballots. On Thursday, a judge rejected the Republican bid to postpone certification of the county’s election results and dismissed the party’s legal challenge that sought the new audit.

Maricopa County officials certified their results Friday. Biden won the county by more than 45,000 votes, and bested Trump statewide by a margin of more than 10,000 votes.

Then there is Georgia, where election officials did a high-profile audit of the presidential race as required by state law. The audit — a hand tally of about 5 million votes — wasn’t in response to any suspected problems. A new law in Georgia mandates an audit of any one race after every election. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, said he chose to audit the presidential race because of its significance and because of the tight margin between Trump and Biden.

A few thousand previously uncounted ballots were discovered during the audit, narrowing Biden’s lead over Trump. Biden still ended up taking the state.


Things unfolded a little differently in Michigan.

It began when two Republican election board members of the district that includes majority-Black Detroit, voted to block a routine certification of the votes. They cited discrepancies between the number of ballots that were given to voters — for voting either by mail or in person — and the number of votes cast.

It was a stunning and unexpected move, especially since Biden beat Trump in Wayne County by a more than 2-1 margin, according to unofficial results. Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes, or 2.8 percentage points.

The Republicans' claim drew complaints of racism from Democrats and election experts who also noted there has been no sign of widespread voting fraud in Michigan or elsewhere. The two Republican board members later reversed themselves following assurances that there would be an audit, which Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said would be done in Wayne County and in any other community with “significant clerical errors."

Since then, the Wayne County board Republicans have signed affidavits saying they still do not believe the results should have been certified. State officials have said they cannot revoke their votes.


In Alaska, Republican Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, has said he plans to seek an audit of votes cast on a statewide ballot initiative to do away with party primaries. That’s after Trump and some of his supporters cast doubt on the technology used to tabulate votes — again, with no evidence of serious irregularities.

Dominion Voting Systems, one of the largest voting technology providers in the country, denied what it called “false assertions about vote-switching and software issues” with its systems.

In this instance, it's not the Trump campaign asking for an audit. Rather, Meyer said the machines proved accurate during the primary, but that he is seeking an audit because “so many people think our Dominion machines are faulty, corrupt and easily manipulated, and I think a lot of this is misinformation that’s coming from the national level.”

The audit would happen after results are certified, and wouldn't change the outcome.


There have been no widespread findings of fraud in any state during the 2020 elections. At most, election officials have cited routine instances of human error or minor technical problems.

Trump’s own election security agency declared the 2020 presidential election to have been the most secure in history. (Though days after that statement was issued, Trump fired the agency’s leader. )

At this point it's unlikely that any audit in any state could uncover problems large enough to sway election results.


Associated Press coverage of voting rights receives support in part from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Elections, General Election News, General Presidential Election News, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Online Headlines - Georgia News, AP Elections - Political Conventions
© Copyright 2020
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
The Latest: China starts mass testing 3 million in Tianjin
China is starting mass testing on 3 million people in a section of the northern city of Tianjin and has tested 4,015 others in a hospital in Shanghai after the discovery of a pair of cases there
12:29AM ( 8 minutes ago )
Asia Today: South Korea, Japan mull steps as new cases rise
South Korea has reported 386 new cases of the coronavirus in a resurgence that could force authorities to reimpose stronger social distancing restrictions after easing them in October to spur a faltering economy
12:23AM ( 14 minutes ago )
Police: 8 injured in Wisconsin mall shooting; suspect sought
Police searched Friday evening for the suspect in a shooting at a suburban Milwaukee mall that left seven adults and a teenager injured
12:16AM ( 21 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Trump tries to leverage power of office to subvert Biden win
President Donald Trump is trying to leverage the power of the Oval Office in an extraordinary attempt to block President-elect Joe Biden’s victory
10:02PM ( 2 hours ago )
Court: Tennessee can enforce Down syndrome abortion ban
A federal appeals court has ruled that Tennessee can begin outlawing abortions because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome
9:21PM ( 3 hours ago )
Mexico tops 100,000 COVID-19 deaths, 4th country to do so
A day after Mexico passed the 100,000 mark in confirmed COVID-19 deaths, becoming only the fourth country to do so, its president and the mayor of its capital struck dramatically different tones
9:06PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP National News
Georgia governor certifies presidential electors for Biden
Georgia’s Republican governor and top elections official have certified results showing Joe Biden won the presidential race over Republican President Donald Trump
7:06PM ( 5 hours ago )
1st drug for rare rapid-aging disease extends kids' lives
The first treatment has been approved for a rare disease that causes rapid aging in children
7:06PM ( 5 hours ago )
Who needs Russia? Loudest attacks on US vote are from Trump
In the weeks before the presidential election, federal authorities warned that foreign countries could spread false information about the results to discredit the legitimacy of the outcome
6:54PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online National News
Biden wants Congress to pass virus aid in lame-duck session
President-elect Joe Biden is pushing Congress to approve billions of dollars in emergency COVID-19 assistance before he takes office
6:45PM ( 5 hours ago )
Virus News: Another case record, positive news on vaccine
The development of a vaccine has taken another step forward as Pfizer is asking U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine
5:15PM ( 7 hours ago )
Biden could announce Cabinet picks as soon as next week
President-elect Joe Biden is moving quickly to fill out his administration and could name top Cabinet nominations as early as next week
5:04PM ( 7 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
The Latest: Japan's confirmed COVID-19 cases hit new record
Japans health ministry says the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Japan reached a record for the third day straight, at 2,418 cases
11:25PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: SKorea's virus surge could bring more measures
South Korea has reported 386 new cases of the coronavirus, its fourth straight day of over 300, a viral resurgence that could force authorities to reimpose stronger social distancing restrictions after easing them in October to spur a faltering economy
10:32PM ( 2 hours ago )
US Rep. Mike Garcia claims win in swing district north of LA
Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Garcia claimed victory Friday in his back-and-forth contest with Democrat Christy Smith in the 25th District north of Los Angeles
10:31PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
VP Mike Pence campaigns in Georgia ahead of Senate runoffs
Vice President Mike Pence is campaigning Friday in Georgia in support of the state’s two Republican senators
3:16PM ( 9 hours ago )
Biden wants Congress to pass emergency COVID aid this year
President-elect Joe Biden is calling on Congress to enact billions of dollars in emergency COVID-19 assistance before the year’s end
2:57PM ( 9 hours ago )
The Latest: WH disputes concerns about getting vaccine out
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany is disputing Joe Biden’s concerns about the government’s ability to distribute a coronavirus vaccine after one is approved, given that the Trump administration is refusing to share information with the president-elect’s team
2:17PM ( 10 hours ago )
AP Elections
Biden adds Obama administration veterans to top staff
President-elect Joe Biden is adding four Obama-Biden administration veterans to his top ranks as he continues to build out his White House team
10:59AM ( 13 hours ago )
Mich. leaders head to DC as Trump bids to subvert election
Two Michigan state legislators are headed to the White House as President Donald Trump makes an extraordinary and sure-to-be futile attempt to block Joe Biden’s victory in the battleground state and subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election
10:50AM ( 13 hours ago )
Trump, allies make frantic steps to overturn Biden's victory
President Donald Trump and his allies are taking increasingly frantic steps to subvert the results of the 2020 election, including summoning state legislators to the White House as part of a longshot bid to overturn Joe Biden’s victory
9:30AM ( 15 hours ago )
General Election News
Death toll at 37 in Uganda unrest after Bobi Wine's arrest
The death toll from protests over the arrest of Ugandan opposition presidential hopeful and musician Bobi Wine has risen to 37, police said Friday
7:40AM ( 17 hours ago )
Burkina Faso to vote amid escalating violence
Burkina Faso citizens will vote in presidential and legislative elections on Sunday, amid escalating extremist violence that’s killed more than 2,000 people this year and displaced some one million people from their homes
7:25AM ( 17 hours ago )
Too soon? Georgia draws next class of White House hopefuls
Twin Senate runoffs in Georgia are first and foremost about who will control the Senate for the opening of President-elect Joe Biden’s Democratic administration
8:52PM ( 1 day ago )
General Presidential Election News
Brees to miss at least 3 games after Saints place him on IR
The Saints have placed quarterback Drew Brees on injured reserve, meaning he’ll miss at least three games with rib injuries
8:32PM ( 4 hours ago )
Week 12: Big Ten unbeatens, Bedlam and Lawrence returns
The Big Ten's four unbeaten teams square off Saturday in two games that could go a long way toward settling the division races
2:18AM ( 22 hours ago )
Jake Scott, former Miami safety, Super Bowl MVP, dies at 75
Former NFL safety Jake Scott has died at 75
9:24PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Online - Georgia News
AP Online Headlines - Georgia News
Deadline near for hand tally of presidential race in Georgia
The Georgia secretary of state's office says election officials across the state were expected to meet the deadline complete a hand tally of the presidential race
5:33PM ( 2 days ago )
House Dems nominate Pelosi as speaker to lead into Biden era
House Democrats have nominated Nancy Pelosi for two more years as speaker
1:49PM ( 2 days ago )
Pelosi moves toward leading divided House Dems 2 more years
House Democrats seem certain to nominate Nancy Pelosi for two more years as speaker
12:09AM ( 3 days ago )
AP Elections - Political Conventions
Free agency opens: Fox and Kings agree on $163 million deal
Free agency in the NBA has started
12:26AM ( 20 minutes ago )
Police: 8 injured in Wisconsin mall shooting; suspect sought
Police searched Friday evening for the suspect in a shooting at a suburban Milwaukee mall that left seven adults and a teenager injured
12:16AM ( 30 minutes ago )
Georgia residents, doctor, lawmaker helped in vaccine effort
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Savannah’s Dr. Paul Bradley, who in July dosed the first patient in biotechnology company Moderna’s U.S. phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial, on Monday celebrated the...
12:01AM ( 45 minutes ago )
US, Taiwan step up economic cooperation in new dialogue
The U.S. and Taiwan are stepping up cooperation in a newly created economic dialogue, in another move from the outgoing Trump administration to increase official exchanges with the self-ruled island
12:00AM ( 46 minutes ago )
The Latest: China starts mass testing 3 million in Tianjin
China is starting mass testing on 3 million people in a section in the northern city of Tianjin and has tested 4,015 people in a hospital in Shanghai after the discovery of a few cases Friday
11:52PM ( 54 minutes ago )