HB 5888 – New Audit Law – Including Hand Count Recounts

Update 3/16/2008 Please see the 1st comment from George Cody correcting my impression that he was against the bill.

Yesterday, I testified in favor of HB 5888 recommending some suggested changes. With some improvements the bill would be a big step forward providing an Independent Audit Board, more effective statistics based audits, removes some of exemptions in the current law, and provides for “Hot Audits” close to election day.

The bill text is close to the recently passed New Jersey bill. It can be made clearer and stronger with some additions and revisions from proposed Federal “Holt Bill” HR 5036. It also needs some tweaking in its customizations for Connecticut. It should also remove all of the loopholes and exemptions from the current law passed last year. <my testimony>

HB 5888 also includes a Voters’ Bill of Rights and a provision calling for manual counting in recounts:

Sec. 2. (NEW) (Effective from passage) Notwithstanding any provision of the general statutes, if a recanvass is required by law in a municipality that uses marksense voting tabulators, such recanvass shall be conducted by hand count.

George Cody, representing the Registrars Of Voters Association, Connecticut (ROVAC) spoke later in the day. As expected George spoke in opposition to the bill. Mentioning in particular statistical provisions and the hand counted recanvass. Here is what I said yesterday:

We all know that people can count accurately – that manual recounts can produce results that can overcome any machine counting errors and accurately determine voters’ intent.

It is the burden of those proposing machine recounts to come forward with a detailed plan. It is their burden to prove that their detailed plan is workable. It is their burden to prove that their plan would be reliably accurate.

Although I doubt it, perhaps there is a reliable and workable machine recount plan possible. I have not seen a written detailed plan proposed. What I have heard is speculation of what might be done. Speculation and ideas that are incomplete – Speculation that is inconsistent and unworkable.

I wish we did not have to do manual audits and manual recounts, they are inconvenient. However, the promise of democracy and the necessity of election integrity are more important than wishes and inconvenience.

I will have more to say about hand and machine recounts in the next few days.

George Coty cited <Dr. Shvartsman’s slides> from his forum on Monday 3/10 to the GAE Committee as indicating in Coty’s opinion that our machines are statistically accurate. Coty and others may have seen Dr. Shvartsman’s answer to a question from the committee, aired on CT-N, stating that machines could be used to recount votes.

What was not covered was my conversation with Dr. Shvartsman after the forum, discussing the obvious problem that if an identical memory card is used, programmed from the same source as the first, that any errors or fraud in the original memory card would likely be repeated in the second card. I don’t have an exact quote, but Dr. Shvartsman agrees with me on this point. I pointed this out to the committee chairs, with Dr. Shvartsman confirming.

Also in questioning by the committee , Dr. Shvartsman agreed with the value of 100% independent testing of memory cards, after programming, and before shipment to registrars.


3 responses to “HB 5888 – New Audit Law – Including Hand Count Recounts”

  1. ct registrar

    Your comments misrepresented, or under-represented at best, my testimony on 5888.

    “George Coty, representing the Registrars Of Voters Association, Connecticut (ROVAC) spoke later in the day. As expected George spoke in opposition to the bill. Mentioning in particular statistical provisions and the hand counted recanvass.”

    The first two paragraphs of my testimony clearly endorse the concept not only of audits, but also an independent audit board, and are included here for your edification. The full version is available on the GAE 3/11 testimony page (Unless Mr Weeks puts a link up).

    “…the Registrars of Voters Association would like to identify several problems or areas of confusion in the proposed bill HB 5888 AAC Revisions To The Optical Scan Voting Machines. We would further strongly recommend that the Committee and the Legislature defer action on this bill until more time can be taken to evaluate the operation and procedures of the proposed ‘Audit Team’, and the effect of this bill on ballot security in the post election environment.
    The Registrars of Voters Association does not oppose the concept of an independent Audit Board, which would include the involvement of the Attorney Generals office. We feel the Secretary of State in conjunction with UCONN has established a comprehensive process of pre and post-election memory card testing and further pre-election testing of every memory card by registrars. This is complimented by an audit program, which samples a random sample of districts and ballot positions. Problems found in the November audits were addressed with new clearer procedures used in the February Primaries. There are those who will never be satisfied with any audit program that does not recount every ballot in every election. We feel that the system designed by the Secretary of State should be given the opportunity to improve upon itself, perhaps with further modification as to the independent nature of the audits.”

    As pointed out by the Secretary of State in her submitted testimony, , the raised bill may have been plucked verbatim from New Jersey statutes, which might explain it’s peculiar language. New Jersey does not use optical scan, nor do they have Connecticuts local election management. I wonder if the Attorney General was even aware of his new proposed role in the bill.

    Apparently the bill was raised as a dummy bill, with the intention of replacing with other language, as it becomes available. Unfortunately the nature of the legislative beast is such that the public is required to testify on the raised bill, and my duty as a Registrar is to declare that the proposed bill is unworkable as written and should go no farther without major revision. What I didn’t say was that the bill was an embarrassment to the committee and those proponents that have worked on this issue. It should never have been raised without someone reading it as to relevance to Connecticut statutes.

    As to any statistics cited, they were taken from the bill to prove its’ own inconsistencies.

  2. ct registrar

    There was no time and little effort to debate the bill, or to draw up a bill that applied to Connecticut elections. This was a committee raised bill, published and filed, and scheduled for it’s only public hearing.
    If the chair intended it as a ‘shell’ or ‘dummy’ bill then detailed language, obviously in conflict with and not applicable to Connecticut elections, should not have been included. Common sense would suggest that you don’t raise bad or damaging language for possible passage.

    Unfortunately, the public, and many in the legislature are not privy to the machinations of ‘place holder’ legislation, and the thinking of Chairman Caruso. It was my job to call a bad bill a bad bill. My testimony was limited to pointing out the specific problems of the language of the bill. Wednesday the 19th is the final day for the committee to act on the bill. A ‘substitute’ bill will be introduced, debate will occur outside the public;s ability to comment, with only the bills author and a few insiders aware of it’s content. If a majority consensus can not be reached, the bill will die.

    Audits exist, and while we can debate the depth and breadth of their application, they are a necessary method of not only testing the tabulators and their memory cards (with their additional testing), but are a key element in assuring public confidence in our system.

    Maybe I’m getting paranoid,…my testimony appears to have been removed.

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