Improved election reporting on the way

CTMirror: Connecticut gets low grade for online election info, but big changes are coming <read>

We are not surprised that the state elections web gets low grades again when compared to other states. But there is some potential good news.

But big changes are coming, including a precinct-by-precinct election reporting system that the state hopes to test in April and use publicly in August to gather unofficial results during the expected primaries for U.S. Senate and state legislative races.

This sounds like the kind of change we called for during the 2010 election for Secretary of the State: What could a Secretary of the State Do? <read>

Provide detailed, accurate, downloadable, election information and notices on the Secretary of the State’s web site

In a PEW study the Connecticut site ranked 48th out of 50 states.  We could debate if we should be higher in the rankings, or instead work to emulate and surpass the top ranked states.

The process of accumulating voting results in Connecticut is an error-prone three step process of addition and transcription, from polling place, to town hall, to the Secretary of the State’s Office, and to the web.  Citizens have identified errors large and moderate – errors of a magnitude  which could change election results, the initiation of recanvasses, or ballot access. See <here> <here>

Without reliable, publicly posted results, post-election audits cannot be accomplished which inspire confidence and provide integrity.  A trusted audit requires selecting districts for audit against previously posted results.  Since we audit against optical scanner tapes, and the tape results are not posted, then we fail to meet that requirement.

What can be done?

  • Post copies of the original documents: All district and central count absented ballot Moderator’s’ Reports and copies of scanner tapes should be faxed to the Secretary of the State’s Office and posted on the SOTS web site. (We know this is easily possible since the SOTS web site has recently included images of all local ballots, and is capable of the quick addition of press releases)
  • Post detailed and summary data: The SOTS could use temporary employees or outsourcing to input and double check the input of all that data, then post it to the web site in human and downloadable formats.
  • Side benefit: A free public audit: As a byproduct the public, candidates, and parties could check and audit the data at no cost to the state.  To do that today would involve visiting town halls across the state and performing all the calculations done today by hand – efficient auditing of selected districts is not possible because detailed data is not currently posted

Not quite as far as we would like and the details in the article are a bit sketchy. Hopefully the data will include details for each district that can be used to compare with the audit. Since the audit exempts all hand counted and all centrally counted absentee ballots from the audit, to be useful results must provide separate totals for hand counted and machine counted ballots in each district polling place and separate absentee counts by district centrally counted. Important as well would be to have the data in a downloadable format.

We would also hope that all registrars and moderators will support this initiative. We are not sure this requirement can actually be required and enforced without a change in the law.

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