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Post-election audit bill moves forward

The duty to conduct the audit would fall on canvassing boards in each county.

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A House committee voted 12-0 on Wednesday to approve a bill to conduct audits of general elections in each county.

House Bill 457, the Alabama Post-Election Audit Act, would require county canvassing boards composed of the probate judge, circuit clerk, and sheriff to manually tabulate each ballot cast in one randomly selected race after the conclusion of general elections.

Rep. Debbie Wood, R-Valley, the bill sponsor, introduced it out of concern for election integrity, citing the age and unsecured transportation of voting machines.

“We haven’t taken the time to audit the tabulators, the machines, not the individuals running the polls, to see if those machines are still doing what they’re supposed to do: providing accurate election results,” Wood said.

Wood also highlighted the impact of low vote margins by recounting that her first election was won by six votes.

“Everywhere I went, in the grocery store or Walmart, people would go ‘my vote was one of the seven. My vote was one of the seven that got you over.’ And I would look at them, and I would say ‘absolutely’ because I knew the people that I was talking to were legitimate voters. That’s why I could say, ‘yes it was your vote. It was your vote,’” Wood said.

Alabama is one of only four states that do not regularly conduct post-election audits. In 2021, the Alabama Legislature passed the Alabama Voter Confidence Act to authorize the secretary of state to conduct a one-time audit of the 2022 general election.

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The audit examined Dallas, Houston, and Marshall Counties. In the gubernatorial race, Dallas County found votes for Gov. Kay Ivey were undercounted by one, and votes for Yolanda Flowers were overcounted by one.

The procedure outlined in the Alabama Post-Election Audit Act would resemble that used in the 2022 audit, but the duty to conduct the audit would fall on canvassing boards in each county rather than the secretary of state, who would provide funding and publish audit results.

Since audits would involve manual tabulation of every ballot in the selected race, larger counties may need to devote greater time and resources following an election. Wood, however, said the larger counties like Jefferson carry the most electoral weight and thus need audits the most.

Samuel Stettheimer is a reporting intern at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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