EXPLAINER: What's with all the election audits?

A Chatham County election official posts a sign in the public viewing area before the start of a ballot audit, Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, in Savannah, Ga. Election officials in Georgias 159 counties are undertaking a hand tally of the presidential race that stems from an audit required by state law. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

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.