On Saturday, officials from the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office will begin auditing a sample of paper ballots cast in eight, randomly drawn counties during the recent general election.
The audits are new this year and were created by Senate Bill 1274, which the Idaho Legislature passed unanimously and Gov. Brad Little signed into law on March 11.
The new law applies to any primary or general election in Idaho, including presidential primary elections.
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Elections officials will travel across the state starting Saturday to conduct the audits, and observers from the Idaho Democratic Party and Idaho Republican Party are appointed to witness the process, which is also open to the news media.
“This will be the second time we’ve done it, and all our people love the process and find it to be interesting and exciting,” Idaho Democratic Party Executive Director Jared DeLoof said in a telephone interview.
“Our elections administrators and the people volunteering at the polls do a fantastic job,” DeLoof added. “There is no doubt elections in Idaho and across the country are fair and secure.”
Efforts to reach Idaho Republican Party Chairwoman Dorothy Moon were unsuccessful.
How are Idaho counties selected for the post-election audit?
To prepare for the audit, officials from the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office will conduct a random, lottery ball style drawing of counties and precincts at 7 p.m. Friday in the Lincoln Auditorium in Idaho State Capitol in Boise, Chief Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck said. (The drawing will be open to the public and streamed live on the free Idaho in Session streaming service.)
Using a model developed by the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office and Boise State University processors, counties will be drawn from three groupings based on the number of registered voters — counties with fewer than 20,000 voters, counties with 20,000 to 99,999 voters and counties with 100,000 or more voters. A total of eight counties will be selected, and the total number of precincts from each county will not exceed 5% of the precincts, or one precinct, whichever number is greater.
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After the counties are drawn, Idaho law requires the Idaho Secretary of State’s office to notify the affected county clerks and county sheriffs, and for the county sheriffs to then impound and take the affected ballots into custody.
The audits run Saturday through Tuesday, and the Secretary of State’s Office has $50,000 budgeted for the audits, Houck said.
Under Idaho law, the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office will conduct the audit, and county clerks will facilitate the audit.
What other steps are in place to safeguard Idaho elections?
The new post-election audits are only one step used to safeguard Idaho elections. Prior to elections, county elections officials conducted tests where they publicly demonstrated and tested their election tabulation equipment during logic and accuracy tests. Part of the logic and accuracy tests involved confirming the counts of thousands of test ballots, and the machines are tested to see if they recognize and flag ballots where more than one candidate was selected in a race that only allowed voters to pick one candidate.
After the election — and separate from the random audits — county commissioners certify their local county elections results. Then, the Idaho State Board of Canvassers has 15 days following a general election to meet and certify the state’s election results. The Idaho State Board of Canvassers includes the secretary of state, state controller and state treasurer. The Idaho State Board of Canvassers will meet Wednesday at the Idaho State Capitol to certify the state election results. Only after the results are certified do they become official.