May Elections: Random District Selection for Post Election Audit

Connecticut towns must hold municipal elections in May or November of odd years.

The Secretary of the State’s pre-election Press Release:  Bysiewicz:  Polls Will Be Open Monday May 4th, 15 Connecticut Communities Holding Municipal Elections In May <read>

As required by law 10% of districts holding municipal elections  are subject  to the Post-Election Audit.  CTVotersCount attended the drawing this morning, representing the public.  Some might question the value of such a small audit.  Considering the value of elections and statistics, we disagree.  (see our analysis and opinion below)

The law:

Not earlier than the fifteenth day after any election or primary and not later than two business days before the canvass of votes by the Secretary of the State, Treasurer and Comptroller, for any federal or state election or primary, or by the town clerk for any municipal election or primary, the registrars of voters shall conduct a manual audit of the votes recorded in not less than ten per cent of the voting districts in the state, district or municipality, whichever is applicable.

However, not all these elections were “municipal elections”, several were “borough elections”.  As such, the “borough elections” do not fall under the post-election audit laws, adding another item to our list of  “loopholes” or exemptions in the law.

By the numbers:

  • 6 Municipalities had municipal elections  on May 4th
  • 13 Election districts* in the election
  • 2 10% of districts in the election that must be audited
  • 3 Municipalities had recanvasses** in at least one race, exempting districts in those municipalities from audit

The law:

If a selected voting district has an office that is subject to recanvass or an election or primary contest pursuant to the general statutes, the Secretary shall select an alternative district

The process:

The 10 districts in the three towns without districts are printed and separated.

The public has the opportunity to review the list of districts:

The eligeable districts

The eligible 13 districts

The slips of paper are folded uniformly.  The public is invited to randomly draw districts:

CTVotersCount Co-Founder, Denise Weeks selects districts

CTVotersCount Co-Founder, Denise Weeks, selects districts

The chosen districts and alternates*** are announced as they are drawn:

 

Deputy Secretary of the State, Lesley Mara, announces district

Deputy Secretary of the State, Lesley Mara, announces district

The eligible districts include eight from Naugatuck along with one each from Andover, and Woodbridge.  That would give about a 62% chance that Naugatuck would be selected for both districts to be audited:

 

Two selected districts and alternate, all from Naugatuck

Two selected districts and alternate, all from Naugatuck

What is next:

The individual municipalities (in this case just one) will be notified of their selection.

The municipal clerks in each town will randomly select three races to audit for the districts selected.  (We’d like to report on these to provide confidence that they are truly random and fair, however, they are not required to be public or noticed to the public)

The municipal registrars will determine and publicly notice a date of the local counting session which must occur between May 19th to, we understand, May 29th.  The Election Audit Coalition will observe the audit counting sessions.

Election Audit Coaltion will analyze and report the results.  Independently, The University of Connecticut is required by law to analyze and report audit results.

Analysis and Opinion:
Some might
question the value of such a small audit.  Considering value of elections and the statistics, we disagree.

We question the wisdom of not subjecting all elections, all contests, and all ballots to the possibility of being selected for audit.  In addition to the recanvassed races in this election several contests and ballots are entirely exempt from audit.  Exemptions include other races in recanvassed districts, all questions, all referendums, all ballots initially counted by hand, and all centrally scanned absentee ballots.  Exemptions open up opportunities for error and fraud to go undetected, and openings for fraudsters to know in advance what will never be audited.   Every type of election, contest and ballot should be subject to being selected for audit.  No election contest is unimportant, no ballot is exempt from changing election  results.

We also point out that the statistical implications of auditing municipal elections are different than the implications for Congressional or statewide contests.  Statistically each municipal election is independent, selection 10% of districts produces the same level of confidence in a race if the municipality is one of six in May or one of 163 in November.

Other coverage: Orient Lodge Secretary of the State’s Press Release

—————
* Districts are similar to precincts in other states

** Recanvasses are similar to recounts in other states, with perhaps less rigor.  They are done with a combination of machine and manual counting.  According to the Recount Proceedures Manual, revised last July, there is no public notice requirement.

*** Alternates are chosen in case a district is subsequently subject to an election contest prior to the audit counting session.

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