HB 5727: Bill to add new audit exemption, shift burden to large towns, and exempt officials from fines

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.

House Bill 5727

Introduced by:
REP. GIULIANO, 23rd Dist.

AN ACT CONCERNING POST-ELECTION AUDIT PROCEDURES.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General
Assembly convened:

That title 9 of the general statutes be amended to reform post
election audit procedures to provide that (1) after an audit, a town
shall have a four-year exemption to relieve the town from holding a
post-election audit, provided such town is a small town; and (2)
registrars of voters shall no longer be held personally liable for fines
for failure to comply with audit procedures. Instead, such fines shall be
levied against the municipalities.

Statement of Purpose:
To reform post-election audit procedures.

You would think from listening to registrars complain that post-election audits were the most expensive, time consuming part of the job; that the audits are almost the sole cause of breaking town budgets. They are not. Post-election audits represent a small part of the costs of election management. Paper ballots cost $0.30 to $0.50 each, elections cost $5.00 to $20.00 and much higher per ballot cast. Audits amount to about $0.10 or about $70,000-$80,000 for a major November election.

This bill would dramatically reduce the audits and provide a four year, nine election period for small towns to to be exempt from post-election audits altogether, at the expense of large towns. We also hear many complaints from large towns as well.  They do not understand the basic math that a 10% random selection of districts would be expected to select multiple districts, almost every time for towns with 20 to 30 plus districts.

Exempting any towns 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 town 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.

It would be a unique, bad precedent if taxpayers foot the bill for officials’ fines levied for improperly conducting their duties. There is a reason that the state did not serve time for pay fines for the ethics violations of Governor John Roland and several of our big city Mayors.  If officials are exempt from such fines the public would pay thrice: for the official duties improperly performed, for the election integrity not maintained, and the fine itself.

PS: We are unaware of any election official yet fined or otherwise punished for violating post-election audit procedures, regulations, or laws. One of the reasons is that, in Connecticut, such procedures and regulations are unenforceable – one of the things that for three years the Audit Coalition has been recommending the Legislature consider changing.

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