Election Audits in South Carolina

The State Election Commission (SEC) requires counties to conduct hand-count and results-verification audits for any federal or state-level election.

Hand-Count Audits

Voters verify their votes on their paper ballot before casting it. The hand-count audit is designed to ensure the votes recorded by the scanners match what was verified by the voters.

Hand-Count Audit Steps:

  • Precincts and offices are selected for the audit.
    • The SEC selects the precincts and offices for each county in federal and state-level elections.
    • Local election officials select the precincts and offices for local elections.
  • Election officials publicly open the ballot box for the selected precinct(s) and hand count the votes for the selected office on the voter-verified paper ballots.

Results-Verification Audits

A results-verification audit is an independent, automated audit that relies solely on the use of independent software to tabulate ballot images. The results from the independent tabulation are then compared to the tabulation results from the voting system.

The results-verification audit is conducted using ballot images. The use of ballot images allows elections officials to maximize the technological functions of the voting system while minimizing human error and eliminating chain of custody issues by using securely stored ballot images, rather than voted paper ballots. 

A discrepancy variance level of 0.5% is established for results-verification audits.  If there is a variance between the voting system results and the audit results greater than 0.5% in any given contest and the variance cannot be explained, additional auditing will be performed.

The SEC has contracted with Clear Ballot, a Boston-based elections technology company, to conduct these audits. Clear Ballot offers the ClearAudit software product, which is the only currently available, market-ready software product that can perform a results-verification audit using ballot images from voting systems.

Pre-Audit Tasks:

To prepare for the results-verification audits, the SEC provides Clear Ballot with the following:

  • PDF files of all ballot styles for each county's election.
  • Pre-election reports for all precincts showing no votes cast.
  • Information to assign ballot styles.
  • Files needed to process ballots used with ballot-marking devices.