The press can help ensure the integrity of U.S. elections by asking election officials questions about the public verifiability of the accuracy of state election outcomes. For instance:
1. Does the state use auditable voting systems allowing the accuracy of publicly reported vote tallies to be checked? (I.e. voter marked paper ballots because digital recording electronic (DRE) voting machines can be fraudulently manipulated without possibility of detection and studies have shown 2/3rds of voters do not bother to check the accuracy of their paper roll ballot printouts and less than 9% of voters accurately check their paper roll ballot records .)
2. Is the public allowed to oversee the security of ballots from the time ballots are printed until after the post-election manual accuracy checks (audits)? (I.e. How do we know that the ballots counted are the same ballots cast by voters?) This is particularly troublesome for absentee mail-in ballots. Are mail-in ballots only opened and processed only in a public meeting? What are the security procedures for ballots?
3. What are the machine tallies and number of voters who cast ballots for each precinct for each ballot type (absentee, early, provisional, and polling place)? If detailed vote tallies are not publicly reported, then aggregated tallies hide any ballot box stuffing or vote padding for one candidate in one type of ballot and subtraction of votes for another candidate in another ballot type or by normal undervoting. When the reported tallies are aggregated, even if the number of voters voting in each precinct is publicly reported, absentee ballot padding is undetectable as long as less padding occurs than the number of polling place undervotes. Aggregating tallies also hides suspicious-looking counts occurring in any one ballot type.
4. Are post-election manual counts performed to check the accuracy of publicly reported machine tallies? If so, are the machine tallies publicly reported before randomly selecting which tallies to manually count showing that all the precincts and ballots were included in the random selection that add up to the overall results? Note: In some states the machine tallies selected for manual auditing are never publicly reported and shown to add up to the final result. Such audits are mere showmanship.
5. If manual post-election audits are performed, are they performed prior to certification; is the public allowed to observe the manual counting process; and are more vote tallies manually audited if the contest margin is close, than if the contest is less competitive? Close contests can be stolen by fraudulent manipulation of fewer vote tallies, requiring larger audit sample sizes than wide-margin contests.
We need to know if trade secret machine counts performed by private companies are accurate and if the ballots counted were the same ballots voters cast. In states where inauditable (DRE) voting systems are used or in which no post-election manual counts are performed to verify machine count accuracy of paper ballots, close contests are susceptible to undetectable fraudulently manipulation.
Pre-election voting machine testing cannot detect all innocent programming errors and almost never detects deliberate election tampering.
The right to cast an anonymous ballot does not confer a special right to election officials or to private voting vendors to secretly count U.S. votes without public oversight.
For information on what type of voting systems and manual audit provisions each state uses, see http://www.verifiedvoting.org/
For a computer scientist, voting system expert to interview:
Rice electronic voting expert available through Election Day
For detailed information about the hackability of any DRE voting machines (with or without paper trails), see:
Evaluating the Security of Electronic Voting Systems
Posted by kathy dot dopp at gmail dot com