Post-Election Audits

Rhode Island poised to lead New England in Post-Election Audits

Press Release:  Rhode Island Takes Important Step to Secure Elections with Post-Election Audits – Adopts New Procedure to Check Election Results as Threats Increase

“Post-election audits are the best safeguard to making sure that votes are being counted as cast,” said Representative Edith Ajello (D-Providence), the House sponsor. “My community saw a simple administrative error almost turn into an incorrect election result,” added Senate sponsor, Senator James Sheehan (D-North Kingstown), “and this legislation will help assure voters that a system is in place to catch and correct future problems.”

The audits will begin as soon as September 2018. Rhode Island becomes the 32nd state to require post-election audits, and only the second state to require risk-limiting audits.

The United States should make ballots verifiable—or go back to paper.

Article in The Atlantic: The Case for Standardized and Secure Voting Technology 

It’s time to fix the voting process.

American voting systems have improved in recent years, but they collectively remain a giant mess. Voting is controlled by states, and typically administered by counties and local governments. Voting laws differ depending on where you are. Voting machines vary, too; there’s no standard system for the nation.

Accountability is a crapshoot. In some jurisdictions, voters use machines that create electronic tallies with no “paper trail”—that is, no tangible evidence whatsoever that the voter’s choices were honored. A “recount” in such places means asking the machine whether it was right the first time.

We need to fix all of this.

May Post-Municipal Election Audit Drawing

A few municipalities conduct elections in May rather than November. We joined Deputy Secretary of the State Scott Bates, Assistant Secretary Peggy Reeves, and SOTS Office Interns for the drawing. Sadly, due to last year’s reduction in the audit, only one district will be audited.

We strongly object to the official press release’s characterization of Connecticut’s Post-Election Audit as “Comprehensive”. A comprehensive audit would not exempt ballots from selection for audit, it would audit the totaling of votes, and include compliance audits of all aspects of the election such as checkin lists, voter roles, and ballot security.

Random drawing issues in the Nutmeg State

Connecticut is known as the “Nutmeg State” based on the legend of Yankee Peddlers selling wooden nutmegs to unsuspecting New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians.  True or not, there is little reason to trust anyone here when it comes to random drawings.  Recent history leaves us with little trust in officials and random drawings.

The Secretary of the State’s Office has improved the integrity of the post-election audit drawing, yet two problems remain.

What can we learn from a jurisdiction in NY that hand-counts every vote?

I recently attended a presentation by Columbia County, NY, Election Commissioner Vivian Martin on the post-election audit/recount performed after every election.  It should be of interest to every citizen concerned with trust in elections and every election official: “You Can’t Count Paper Ballots”  Want to bet?  

After every election (using optical scanners) they count every ballot a second time by hand.  What can we learn in Connecticut, “The Land of Steady Habits?

We are not necessarily convinced that we need to go as far as Columbia County.  Yet, Connecticut needs a much stronger, more comprehensive, transparent audit; we need a stronger more transparent chain-of-custody; a more uniform, higher quality recanvass.  There is no reason, other than “we have always done it this way”, for our current post-election schedule.  We could perform rigorous automatic recounts rather than recanvasses; we need more to declare and perform recounts/recanvasses. We could emulate other states and perform audits shortly after the election, delaying rigorous/adversarial recounts to later and providing weeks for their completion.

Controlling Voting Algorithms is Critical

A short op-ed in the Courant from Bloomberg View, by Cathy O’Neil describes the risks of artificial intelligence algorithms used  by the likes of Facebook and Google: Controlling A Pervasive Use Of Algorithms Critical 

We should have concerns with algorithms beyond Artificial Intelligence. The same concerns apply to any algorithm (computer code/manual process), such as voting machines.  We have no access to the code in our AccuVoteOS optical scanners. Yet we know from studies such as the California Top-To-Bottom-Review,  Hacking Democracy’s Hursti Hack, and studies by UConn that the system is vulnerable to attack.  We do not know and cannot know for sure if the software running on a particular AccuVoteOS and its memory card is correct and accurate.

Report: Presidential Election Audit: Suffers Two Blows to Credibility

Citizen Audit: Two Blows to Connecticut Election Audits
Leave Them Weaker, Less Credible

 

From the Press Release:

In spite of growing national concerns about election integrity, election credibility in Connecticut has suffered two devastating blows:

  • The Connecticut General Assembly cut post-election audits in half from 10% to 5% of voting districts, and failed to fix glaring weaknesses in the state’s audit law.
  • Shockingly, Connecticut has become the first state to replace verifiable hand-count audits with unverifiable electronic audits. Now the public can’t verify audit results.

“It need not be this way. Electronic audits can be manually verified without sacrificing efficiency,” said Luther Weeks, Executive Director of Connecticut Citizen Election Audit. “Because audits are conducted by the same officials responsible for conducting elections, audits must be transparent and publicly verifiable,” he said.

The Citizen Election Audit also found continuing problems with how municipalities conducted audits. “The Secretary’s Office should take the lead in ensuring that audits are complete, credible, and publicly verifiable,” Weeks said. “The public, candidates, and Secretary Merrill should expect local election officials to organize audits that produce accurate audit reports,” he said.

We respond to Secretary Merrill’s testimony opposing audit transparency bill

Last Monday we testified for S.B. 540, a bill that would increase audit transparency and public verifiability.

Later we noticed that Secretary of the State, Denise Merrill, submitted testimony opposing one provision of the bill and therefor recommending against the entire bill. Her testimony misinterpreted our bill, recommending against it based on something we did not ask for and was not part of the bill.

In response we wrote a follow-up letter to the GAE Committee.

Testimony on bill to improve election audits, transparency, and security

 

Yesterday, we testified in support of our bill to improve the post-election audits, audit transparency, and ballot security.

  • Common sense reforms to require all aspects of audits to be transparent and open to the public.
  • Common sense reforms to establish minimal standards for ballot security.
  • Electronically Assisted Manual Audits that are transparent and publicly verifiable, based on sound science.

Journal Inquirer Editorial and Our Response

Journal Inquirer Editorial, Monday:  ARE ILLEGAL ALIENS VOTING IN CONNECTICUT?

Our letter sent yesterday:

I agree with the sentiment but not the details of your editorial…There is a better solution…The solution is routine, independent, and publicly verifiable audits of all aspects of election administration.  With such audits, we would not be in this situation…

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