Audit overwhelmingly confirms Virginia’s election results

By: - March 31, 2021 4:49 pm

An election official wipes down a desk at the Agricultural Service Center in Buckingham, Va., November 3, 2020. (Parker Michels-Boyce / For the Virginia Mercury)

A statewide audit of Virginia’s 2020 election results verified President Joe Biden’s victory in the state, finding only a 0.00000065117 percent chance the state’s voting system could have produced an inaccurate outcome.

“Election officials are over 99 percent confident in the reported outcome,” Karen Hoyt-Stewart, voting technology manager at the Virginia Department of Elections, told the State Board of Elections as she presented the audit report Wednesday.

The only way to reach 100 percent certainty would be for officials to manually review every ballot cast in the state. In other words, the audit found there’s almost zero chance a full recount would show a different outcome.

The risk-limiting audit, more of a mathematical exercise than an expansive investigation into how ballots were cast and counted, involved checking a random sample of paper ballots against the results reported by scanner machines.

Local officials throughout the state pulled a total of 1,372 ballots to measure statistical confidence in the reported results. Biden received 756 of those votes, former President Donald Trump received 572, Libertarian Party candidate Jo Jorgensen received 25 and eight ballots were cast for write-in candidates, according to the report.

The audit also verified Democratic Sen. Mark Warner’s victory over Republican Daniel Gade in the U.S. Senate race, again showing more than 99 percent statistical confidence.

Of Virginia’s 133 localities, 122 reviewed ballots as part of the audit. Eleven small localities did not have to pull ballots due to the random selection process.

The wide margins of victory for the statewide Democratic candidates (Biden won by about 10 percentage points and Warner won by 12) meant fewer ballots could be reviewed in the audit.

The state report said the audit is further evidence of “the integrity and validity” of the presidential election, which many Republicans continue to question despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud. The Republican Party of Virginia and GOP General Assembly leaders had questioned the methodology of the audit, arguing it was insufficient to produce a clear ruling on the soundness of the election.

The state report noted that local audit results were prepared by teams “consisting of one Democrat and one Republican.”

Virginia Democrats have dismissed Republicans’ concerns as a baseless attempt to sow doubt about the election process, and have pressed on with their efforts to expand voter access and loosen voting rules enacted under GOP control.

On Wednesday, Gov. Ralph Northam said he’ll approve legislation creating a state-level version of the Voting Rights Act, a proposal Democrats say will help prevent localities from making any election changes in the future that could lower minority turnout or have other discriminatory impacts. The governor also signed bills to continue several temporary voting measures enacted last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including ballot drop boxes, prepaid postage for absentee ballot return envelopes and a process allowing voters to correct any mistakes on an absentee ballot.

At a time when voting rights are under attack across our country, Virginia is expanding access to the ballot box, not restricting it,” Northam said in a news release.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Graham Moomaw
Graham Moomaw

A veteran Virginia politics reporter, Graham grew up in Hillsville and Lynchburg, graduating from James Madison University and earning a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Before joining the Mercury in 2019, he spent six years at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, most of that time covering the governor's office, the General Assembly and state politics. He also covered city hall and politics at The Daily Progress in Charlottesville.