What Did The November 2008 Post-Election Audit Cost?

After the November 2008 election, Secretary Bysiewicz ordered the post-election audit of all five races in the election which added about 40% to the votes required to be counted by law.  We appreciate this as the law only called for the audit of a randomly selected three races and does not exempt uncontested races.  As we pointed out at the time, using statistical methods we could have done much better auditing all races and the two questions counting the original number of votes <read>

But how much did our November audit cost?  Election officials and towns complain about the cost of the audits and that they threaten town budgets.

We have two sets of information provided very responsively  from the Secretary of the State’s office.  The reimbursement requests from towns from the November 2008 election as of February 12 <read> and for the November 2007 election as of yesterday. <read>

We analyzed the November 2008 data, comparing the costs for the towns with the number of ballots and votes counted <read>

Preliminary conclusions.

Some towns don’t actually seem all that concerned with the costs:

  • In November 2008 47 towns requested reimbursement from the State 9 selected for the audit did not (we use 46 for our calculations as we were not able to classify one town)
  • In November 2007 13 towns requested reimbursement  27 did not.

The costs of auditing vary widely between in November 2008  towns:

  • Cost per ballot counted range from $0.09 to $1.88
  • Cost per vote counted range from $0.02 to $0.38|We have a hard time believing the lower costs reported and the higher costs.

Costs on average and in total for Municipalities:

  • The most reasonable number to use for November is the median cost of $0.48 per ballot
  • If all towns had requested reimbursement at the median cost per ballot, the total cost of the audit in November 2008 would have been: $72,103
  • Since we audit 10% of the districts we audit approximat3ely 10% of the ballots cast so the cost per voter is 1/10th of the cost per ballot actually counted, or about $0.05 per voter.

Total costs of the Audit:

The estimate of $72,103 does not include all the costs to the State for the audit, just the Municipalities.  Some of the additional costs, primarily for the Secretary of the State’s Office are:

What would we do for an audit? And how much would that cost?

CTVotersCount proposed a revision to the audit law in this session of the General Assembly, it was died in committee. <read>.  It would audit ALL statewide and congressional races and ALL questions on the ballot based on statistical principles and eliminate several loopholes in the law.

  • It would audit only three races per district except under exceptional circumstances, consistent with the current law, or 40% less than the November 2008 audit, or $72,103 * .6 = $43,262
  • Eliminating the loopholes would add less than 10%, or $43,262 * 1.1 = $47, 588 or about $0.03 per vote.

But, based on our observations the current methods of counting provide insufficient transparency, accuracy, and confidence.  So we would adjust these costs:

  • Most towns use two person counting teams, we would use three or four person teams so the cost of a single count might as much as double.
  • Counting more accurately would reduce the need for counting multiple times and the costs for unnecessary investigations.
  • Costs might go up anywhere from 25% to 90%
  • As an estimate we would increase costs to the municipalities by 50%,  or about:

So it might be about $72,000 or $0.045 per vote for a sufficient audit. To put that in context:

  • Cost of paper ballot $0.35 per voter
  • Stamp for letter to your representative requesting single payer heath care, $0.42
  • One teabag and a postage stamp $0.60
  • Cost of a standalone race to replace a Senate vacancy $6,000,000 not including audit costs or campaign costs.
  • Cost of clean elections for a single State Senate candidate in on district, $85,000.
  • Cost of just one highly contested Senate race, tens of millions,
  • Cost of a wrong vote in congress, billions of dollars, and thousands of lives.

No matter what your politics, y0u can find many many votes in Hartford, Washington, or your town that you disagree with, costing one way or another more than the cost of an audit.  What is the value of confidence that all those officials were elected without error or fraud?  We say priceless, certainly worth  much much more than $72,000 for last November’s election.

Is it worth $0.05 per voter or $0.03 per voter for integrity and confidence?  We think so.

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