Carter Center Issues Final Report on Observation of Georgia’s Risk-Limiting Audit/Hand Count of Presidential Race

ATLANTA (April 1, 2021) — The Carter Center today issued its final report on Georgia’s risk-limiting audit of the November 2020 presidential race, commending the process and saying that it should serve as the basis for increased confidence in the state’s electoral system. 

The report also congratulates election officials for successfully completing the largest hand tally of an election race in U.S. history and for doing an admirable job of transparently conducting the audit during the COVID-19 pandemic and amid a divisive political environment. 

Developed over the past decade, a risk-limiting audit compares the results from a hand count of a statistically random sample of ballots with results recorded by vote-counting equipment. It is now considered the gold standard for postelection auditing. Georgia was able to conduct a risk-limiting audit because of its shift in 2020 to ballot-marking devices that produce a printed ballot,  which was mandated by Georgia’s State Election Board to increase citizen confidence in the integrity of the state’s election process.

The Carter Center report describes some of the flexible approaches and improvisation that occurred during the audit process, noting that different counties used different processes for handling large ballot containers, documenting the chain of custody for printed ballots, batching envelopes for vote review panels, and dividing up data entry work. Although variations did occur, they did not detract from the integrity of the audit process.

The report also documents instances of party monitors behaving in ways that negatively impacted the hand tally process. Despite clear rules outlining access and behavior for official party monitors, Carter Center monitors, and public observers, crowded conditions in several counties made it difficult to implement necessary pandemic social-distancing protocols. Also, in some cases, Republican party monitors deliberately hovered over audit boards and appeared hostile to audit workers—and in a few instances disrupted the counting process. 

Some of the recommendations in the final report are:

  • Develop a statewide strategy for ballot packing and storage, including the regular creation of ballot manifests.
  • Create better reconciliation procedures to handle the increased number of absentee and early votes.
  • Improve the layout and readability of both the hand-completed and the ballot-marking device printed ballots to make it easier for voters to check their completed ballots.
  • Strengthen public outreach and education about risk-limiting audits well in advance of the next major election in 2022.
  • Consider providing state-led training for party and independent monitors.


The Carter Center, which has observed more than 110 elections in 39 countries, was the only nonpartisan organization credentialed by the Office of the Secretary of State to provide an impartial assessment of the implementation of the risk-limiting audit process. Over the audit’s five days, the Center deployed 52 monitors to 25 counties throughout the state. The counties monitored by The Carter Center accounted for more than 60 percent of votes cast. Trained Carter Center monitors were given the same access to observe the auditing process as monitors from political parties. They recorded quantitative and qualitative observations on forms specifically created for the risk-limiting audit and later participated in virtual debriefing sessions.

The Georgia Risk-Limiting Audit/Hand Tally: A Carter Center Observation Report (PDF)


Contact: In Atlanta, Soyia Ellison,

The Carter Center
Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.

A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in over 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.