SB 804: Bill would wipe out post-election audits 7 years in 10

Note: The General Administration and Elections Committee has taken up several election bills and concepts for this session. We are optimistic that some of the concepts will be developed and passed to provide increased election integrity.  Many of the bills taken up, often well intended, have unintended negative consequences. We are highlighting several of them to point out highlighting several of them to point out the good, the bad, and the unbelievable.

Yesterday, we covered a bill that would provide small municipalities a way to avoid audits and open season for fraud and error to go undetected.  Today we cover a bill that would wipe out all post-election audits about 7 years in 10!

Senate Bill 804

Introduced by:

SEN. DAILY, 33rd Dist.

AN ACT CONCERNING RECURRING POST-ELECTION AUDITS.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

That section 9-320f of the general statutes be amended to provide that any municipality that has successfully completed a post-election audit shall not be subject to the Secretary of the State’s random drawing of districts for post-election audits for ten years.

Statement of Purpose:
To allow for greater time periods for voting districts between post-election audits.

As we said, yesterday:

“Exempting any municipalities and any ballots from the post-election audit would be at the expense of election integrity, defeating the purpose of a random audit. Any gap in the random selection known in advance provides the opportunity for fraud, and the cover up of error. If this bill were to become law, once a particular small municipality was audited, for the next four years (about 9 elections) it would be known in advance that no audit would occur, skulduggery with scanners, memory cards or accounting would not be subject to detection in a audit.

Such an exemption would be similar to announcing that Fort Knox would only be guarded in Jan, May, and September; that imported toys, school buses, or restaurants would only be inspected every ninth year; or that highway contractors would have nine projects exempted in advance from any inspections after one project was inspected.”

From an audit and election integrity standpoint, this law is even worse.  Instead of giving small municipalities an exemption for four years, this one would exempt all municipalities for about seven years in ten!

Lets do some approximate math.

  • Connecticut has 169 municipalities.
  • In most audited elections we have about 800 districts.
  • Of those about 80 districts are randomly selected (exactly 10% plus rounding to make it at least 10%).
  • And 40-50 municipalities are selected under the current audit law.

Notes on the current situation:

  • Audits select 10% of districts in the election, while the bill would exempt entire municipalities with districts selected.
  • If we were starting with a clean slate and had no previous audits, since municipalities with many districts are selected more often under the current law, they they would quickly all be selected and exempted, and each subsequent drawing would select and exempt larger numbers of municipalities. After about three or four audited elections all municipalitieswould be exempt. Until 10 years after they were previously audited.
  • Every four years there are about 9audited elections: 4 November Elections, 4 August Primaries and 1 Presidential Primary. Sometimes the August Primary covers only part of the state, other times it is statewide.
  • According to our records, since 2007 we have had about 130 of our 169 municipalities, with all the medium to large municipalities included.

So going forward, if this law were passed:

  • After the August 2011 Primary and the November 2011 Election essentially, if not in reality, all municipalities would be exempt from audit until 2017
  • After 2017, not exactly, but pretty much as each municipality reached the 10 year exemption, it would be audited again. Perhaps a few would slip being selected that time, but would soon be selected and be exempt for another ten years.
  • Approximately, after a municipality was selected once it would be exempted for the next twenty-four or twenty-five elections.
  • And we would have no audits, in the long run for about 7 years in 10.
  • And never have anything approaching a random audit.

As we said this would defeat much of the purpose and value of our post-election audits.

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