Are Election Outcomes Verifiably Accurate? 12 Fundamentals of Auditing Vote Tallies

All of the following conditions are necessary to avoid certifying incorrect election outcomes:

1. Independently-auditable voting systems, i.e. voter-marked paper ballots, not electronic ballots

2. Public reporting of all vote tallies (audit units) used to tally overall election results prior to randomly selecting a sample for auditing

3. Meaningful public observation of, and participation in (a) manual audits and (b) secure handling, storage and transportation procedures for electoral records, including ballots.

4. Adequate sample size and methods to limit the risk of certifying any incorrect initial election outcome by detecting the minimum amount of miscount, in the fewest audit units that could change the outcome (If calculations assume each audit unit’s maximum margin error is less than its upper margin error bound, then candidates must be allowed to select discretionary units for manual auditing in addition to the random sample.)

5. Publicly-verifiable random selection methods, preferably weighted by within audit unit upper margin error bounds rather than by using a uniform sampling distribution

6. Prohibiting ballot and electoral record access between the time of random selections and manual auditing

7. Polling place and jurisdiction-wide reconciliation of printed, used, unused, and spoiled ballots with absentee ballot, polling place and other electoral records

8. Timely public access to electoral records necessary to evaluate the accuracy and integrity of reconciliation and manual auditing processes

9. Voter intent as the standard for manually counting ballots during audits

10. Public reporting of discrepancies found during the audit, using manual counts to correct initial reported results

11. Expansion of the sample size, perhaps to a full recount, or certification of the election using an algorithm based on the premises of the sampling method, treating any missing paper ballots as discrepancies when deciding whether to expand or certify

12. Completion of the audit prior to certifying election results

Does the state you live in do all these things?

Kathy Dopp, MS Mathematics
Ph.D. Student
Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy
State University of New York at Albany
kathy dot dopp at gmail dot com
August 28, 2010

245 Responses to “Are Election Outcomes Verifiably Accurate? 12 Fundamentals of Auditing Vote Tallies”

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