Representative sponsoring post-election audit bill in legislative session

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Representative Debbie Wood is carrying a post-election audit bill. The Alabama House Representatives will sponsor the bill through committee and if it passes it will move on to the House for a vote, then the Senate. 

According to the bill, called HB259, it would require, “the judge of probate of each county to conduct a post-election audit after every county and statewide general election to determine the accuracy of the originally reported results of the election.”

If the bill passed, this would require the county probate judge to manually tally all of the ballots in a randomly selected precinct for a randomly selected race that appeared on the ballot, which is not already subject to a recount or election contest. The probate judge randomly selects the precinct and race to audit by “drawing lots or by computerized random selection,” states the bill. The manual tally can also be substituted by tested ballot counters not used in the original election.  

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For example, if the bill was enacted, the probate judge may have to manually count all the ballots for the Lanett High School precinct for a District 1 commissioner race. If the count matches the initial results, the election is verified. 

If there are discrepancies, the judge must go through more election data to see if the discrepancy is accurate. If there is still a discrepancy after the review, the judge has one day to amend the certification of the election and send the results to the Secretary of State.

If the audit finds that the results name a different winner than the initial results, an election contest must be filed. An election contest would allow courts to decide whether the election is valid, is void, or if there must be a new election altogether.

The bill was introduced in the last session but was too late to work its way through the bill process. So, the audit bill is now assigned to the Ways and Means General Fund Committee. It was assigned to the committee because funds would need to be secured to pay the individuals doing the post-election audits, should the bill become law. Wood hopes to get the bill out of committee and onto the house floor by late March. If enacted, the act would go into effect on Oct. 1, 2024. 

Wood took up the bill after meeting Angela Shepard of the Voters for Election Integrity organization. 

“She told me that she was the crazy ballot lady, and I started laughing. She said, N’o, that’s what everyone calls me because I’m the lady that took a copied paper ballot and inserted it into the tabulator when they were testing the voting machines, and it carried the vote’… I really felt bad the way she was treated. She uncovered something that she thought was remarkable.”

Shepherd has been working with Wood ever since to create the bill and get it seen by a committee. Wood said the bill is close to her heart. In her first primary election, Wood only won by six votes.

“​​We need to ensure that legal voters, their votes count, and that we keep the integrity of our votes in the state of Alabama. So this [bill] helps to do that. The tabulators that count, our votes are just a machine that we need to ensure that they’re working properly,” Wood said.

Wood was unsure of any instances like Shephard’s in her district, however she said the bill is to ensure it doesn’t happen in the future.