The Houston County Commission will decide Tuesday whether to agree to participate in a limited voting audit following the general election in November. 

The Alabama Secretary of State’s Office will conduct the audit, according to an agenda for the Houston County Commission meeting.

Houston County Probate Judge Patrick Davenport said at the Houston County Commission’s administration meeting Thursday the “limited audit” would allow for a comparison of electronic ballot scanner results to a hand count.

“It will only audit one precinct and (in) that precinct it will only audit one state race and one county race,” Davenport said. “It’s a test for the audit process. I think it’s something that the legislature thought was important. What it will actually do…the nuts and bolts of it would be the Circuit Court would issue an order authorizing the Sheriff and I to open those sealed ballot boxes. We’ll set up in this chamber and I’ll probably have 10 teams of two people with a supervisor observing each one of them and each of those teams will go down the ballot and record the tabulated votes from those ballots on a tally sheet. We’ll compare that to the DS200 (ballot scanner) results we procure on election night.”

Davenport said “there’s a lot of concern and there rightfully probably is concern around the nation about various equipment that some states use.”

“For instance, there’s a lot of press on the Dominion vote machine,” Davenport said. “We do not use that. We hand vote ballots and they are tabulated by electronic reader. This is to compare hand counting a certain number of ballots to what the DS200 tabulated. We’ve got several redundancies in that. The DS200 and then there’s the thumb drive authentication on that. None of our equipment is attached to the internet. That’s some of the concerns around the nation. There’s no way to impact or affect the vote results that are tabulated on that DS200.”

A “limited post-election audit” of the 2022 general elections in November conducted “no earlier than Nov. 30, 2022, and no later than Jan. 31, 2023” was approved by the Alabama Legislature and signed into law in May 2021 as a pilot program. 

The law allows for the Alabama Secretary of State to select up to three counties “to the extent possible…(that) reflect the gender, race, and geographical areas of the state.”

The three counties selected for the audit are Dallas, Houston and Marshall counties, according to Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill.

“We offered to any county that was interested to have conversations with us about being part of the pilot (audit),” Merrill told 1819 News on Sunday. “We were only going to choose three counties. We wanted to choose a very rural county. We wanted to choose an urban county and we wanted to choose a county that was basically just a good-sized county that featured the things that we were looking for. When we got the inquiries back, those were the three counties that expressed interest. Houston is one of the largest counties in the state (and) Dothan is one of the largest cities in the state. Marshall County is a little bit bigger than the next level of county that we wanted to do, but we couldn’t get it worked out where we wanted so we wanted to have a North Alabama county. (Probate) Judge Jimmy Nunn down there in Dallas (County) was interested in doing that so that helped us get a very rural, Black Belt county so we felt really good about where we were in having the counties that we wanted as a part of our pilot.”

Results from the post-election audit will be posted on the courthouse door at the conclusion of the audit and posted on the official website of the Secretary of State. The Alabama Secretary of State will also report all findings of the post-election audit to the Governor and the Legislature within 30 days of completion of the audit, according to the law.

All expenses incurred by any counties from the audit will be reimbursed from federal funds made available for use by the Secretary of State. If no federal funds are available, the Secretary of State will be responsible for all costs associated with the audit.

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