Three Issues After Monroe, CT 2006 Audits

Previously I covered my concerns with audit differences in the audit of the 2006 election. Today I will cover my observation of the Monroe, CT audit.

On November 27, 2006 I was able to witness the audit that was taking place in Monroe, CT. Monroe has four voting precincts and two of them were selected for full hand recounts.

There were three issues associated with the audits and several problems with the election process.

Read the details:

Background

Diebold optical scanners were used in 25 out of the 169 municipalities in Connecticut, on a test basis in the November 2006 election. Election workers audited 20% of these voting machines from all congressional districts other than Congressional District 2 (CD-2). The House race in CD-2 was won by less than 100 votes by Democrat Joe Courtney. The Republican incumbent candidate, Rob Simmons, did not request a hand recount and the Secretary of the State’s office decided not to include CD-2 in the audit after recanvassing the Courtney, Simmons race. The recanvassing included the almost meaningless exercise of processing the ballots through optical scanners for a second time. Because of this, none of the ballots in CD 2 were hand counted to verify the accuracy of the voting machines. However, hand recounts of 20% of the machines used in the other four districts were completed.

Teams of two election workers, one Democrat and one Republican, would recount packets of 100 ballots at a time. First one member of the team would read the ballot selections while the other member tallied the results and then they would reverse roles and compare their results. If they had matching counts they would go on to the next packet of 100 ballots. As you can see this was a very tedious and time consuming process. The process was streamlined after the first day but the cost of the recount was still about $8,000 for Monroe. (Note: This is much more than the $0.04 per race per ballot achieved in New Hampshire, as reported by the Brennan Center)

There were three issues in Monroe after the audits:

  • The audit in Monroe District 1 showed Chris Jones, a candidate for State Senate receiving 45 more votes in the machine count than in the audit count. A Registrar of Voters (ROV) in Monroe believed that the difference was due to the fact that the audit count did not include the 49 votes he received from the “Working Families” party. However, the results received from the SOTS office showed Jones receiving 95 more votes in the audit count than from the machine count. This issue was never brought up with the SOTS office.
  • A Judge of Probate race in District 2 in Monroe was not included in the SOTS summary.
  • In Monroe District 1, Nancy Wyman received 25 more votes in the machine count than in the audit count. The ROVs in Monroe had no explanation for this difference and did not talk to anyone from the SOTS office before the SOTS press release on 12/7/06. The 12/7/06 stated all differences were due to a “mismarked ballot, not to machine error”. It is difficult to understand how Secretary Bysiewicz could make this statement since the machine count was higher than the hand recount and no one from Monroe spoke to anyone from the SOTS office.

Election officials from Monroe also mentioned a few problems with the election process.

  • A Green Party candidate dropped out of the race two weeks before Election Day. Because of this new ballots had to be printed at the last minute by a printing company selected by LHS. LHS is a distributor for the Diebold Corporation and they supply Connecticut with Diebold Optical Scan voting machines. They also program and administer any Connecticut elections using the Diebold optical scanners. On some of the new ballots the circle to fill in was not next to the name of the Probate Judge who ran unopposed.
  • Sealed packets of 100 ballots each were sent to Monroe for each district. It was discovered that some of the ballots in a packet were for another district. For instance, a packet of 100 District 1 ballots may have contained 3 ballots from district 2. Also, most of the packets did not contain exactly 100 ballots. This caused election workers to have to review and count every ballot in every packet before the election.
  • On Election Day one of the scanners in District 1 jammed. The technician assigned to Monroe had little experience with scanners but her father was a veteran technician who was assigned to another area. The Monroe technician called her father for help with the jammed machine but she was unable to get the scanner working again even with his instruction. The jammed scanner was eventually replaced by one of the spare scanners for the rest of the day.
  • Finally, the seals placed on the voting machines after the election was completed are made of plastic and are very flimsy. Even though all of the seals were verified before the audit started, election officials in Monroe would like to see stronger seals used in future elections.

The Registrars of Voters, Town Clerk and all of the election workers in Monroe were very cooperative and it was clear that they placed a high priority on accurate vote counts. However, they were slightly overwhelmed by the cost and the labor intensive nature of the audits.

The audits that took place in 2006 were done on a voluntary basis. Connecticut needs stronger audits, and most importantly, an independent audit board. The audits will need to be substantial enough to have a high probability to detect any flaws in the voting system and it is important that all scanners have a chance to be selected in the random selection process. This did not happen in 2006 when the machines used in CD-2 were excluded from the audit process.

Unfortunately, in June 2007 the legislature enacted Senate Bill 1311 (now PA 07-194) which has several shortcomings. The biggest problem is that the audit function is the responsibility of the SOTS office, which is also responsible for accurate elections. This means the SOTS office will essentially be auditing itself. It is clear from the results of the 2006 audit, and Secretary Bysiewicz’s 12/7/06 press release, that an independent audit board needs to be established to determine when further investigation is needed. If audits uncover potential problems that are not examined any further, the overall system will be flawed.

The goal for the legislature, voting activists and concerned citizens in Connecticut will be to enact stronger audit provisions in 2008 that include an independent audit board. This needs to be done so that voters in Connecticut are sure that their votes are accurately recorded and counted.

FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

2 responses to “Three Issues After Monroe, CT 2006 Audits”

  1. Muscle And Fitness

    Muscle And Fitness…

    I couldn’t understand some parts of this article, but it sounds interesting…

  2. blog

    greatings…

    exellent…

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.