Archive - Nov 28, 2007

Observing Voting Machine Audits

As I mentioned in in a previous post, and even included as my Wordless Wednesday picture, I spend several hours today observing people in the Waterbury Registrar of Voter’s office audit the results of this month’s elections by hand counting the ballots and comparing the results with what the optical scanning machines produced.

It was a long and tedious process for the folks in Waterbury. They had six districts that had been selected for the audit. In each district, they needed to randomly select three races. Unfortunately for them, they ended up selecting several multi-candidate races, so the tallying and cross referencing took a particularly long time, and their audit report to the Secretary of States office will probably end up being between twenty and thirty pages long.

Waterbury, like some of the other large cities in Connecticut has a bad reputation in terms of voting, so I was particularly curious about how they would react to the observers and how well the audit would go.

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Wordless Wednesday

recount 001, originally uploaded by Aldon.

Auditing Election Results

How do we know the validity of election results? This is a question a lot of people have spent a lot of time thinking about. The Democracy Program at the Carter Center has been monitoring elections for years. It has always seemed like a problem in developing countries, but not in the United States. Then, the results of the Presidential Election in the United States, especially in 2000, but also in 2004 have raised questions about validity of elections here. How reliable are voting machines, especially as they become more and more computerized black boxes?

Here in Connecticut, we’ve had our first election since the old voting lever machines have been decertified? How successful were these elections? How reliable are the new voting machines?

The Greenwich Citizen reports of an RTM race in Greenwich where the results were changed as a result of someone noticing suspicious results and getting a recount. In an email about the results, Kathy Dopp, Executive Director of The National Election Data Archive wrote:

Human errors are inevitable in any field - including in voting machine ballot programming. The reversal of the initial machine counts in
Greenwich is evidence of the success of Connecticut's voting systems, the willingness of CT's election officials to reveal and correct mistakes, and the benefit of CT's routine manual audits (hand counts) of its machine-counts.

In many other states, unless there is a costly election contest paid for by a losing candidate, errors in machine counts go undetected and incorrect candidates are sworn into office without anyone being the wiser.

Voters in CT are fortunate to know that their votes will be accurately counted.

I think this sums things up pretty nicely, and sets my frame of mind as I head off to observe the audit results of the election. The Connecticut Citizen Election Audit Coalition is observing the audit which goes on today, through December 12th. It still isn’t too late to get involved and observe an audit in process.

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