How to observe an audit

The important thing is… just show up! 

There will be people (probably city clerk staff) counting ballots. You’ll observe how our elections are audited, can ask questions, and hopefully meet other like-minded citizens just as interested in verifiable elections. And because you’re watching and providing oversight and accountability, everyone will do their job better.  And if there are problems discovered (much more frequent than the public realizes), you will be there to see it.

The important role of observer

Election audits must have transparency to be credible–but election officials cannot demonstrate anything to the public if the public isn’t present.

The presence of observers also helps to ensure officials perform the tasks thoroughly and in accordance with instructions, and to ensure that any problems discovered in the audit are not dismissed or ignored.

Observers, too, get something out of observing. Only by being there can we get to know our local election officials, and audits are good opportunities to do that. Election Day is often tense and busy, while recounts are often hurried, complicated, and contentious. In contrast, because audits are administrative tasks that can be relatively relaxed, unhurried occasions. Observers can ask questions and learn more about how elections are managed and secured.

Taken from Karen McKim’s excellent guide to observing at Wisconsin Election Integrity.

Step 1

Find an audit to observe from this Google spreadsheet of audit days, times, and places. 

The best times to attend are at the beginning, when instructions are given and ballot bags are opened, and at the end, when the counts are reconciled with the election night machine count.  (Of course, it’s hard to predict when the end will be until you’re there and you see the pace.)

Step 2

Sign up and let us know you’re going here so we know who you are and can help coordinate. 

Step 3

Show up (preferably with a camera and a notepad and pen.)  If you have time and want to know what to expect, read Karen McKim’s excellent guide to observing an audit on the Wisconsin Election Integrity website.

Step 4

Report back! You can let others know what you observed with this report form, as well as upload pictures. 

Thank you!

You’re showing up for democracy!  Because of you, our election administrators will know how important audits and confidence in election results are to the voting public.  We’ll be in touch to debrief and turn our sights past this year’s election and towards the longer term change we need in Wisconsin.

Questions? Please email the team at