Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Post-election audits: restoring trust in elections

The Brennan Center has released a set of extremely timely recommendations on the auditing of elections:

  • Post-election audits of voter-verifiable paper records are a critical tool for detecting ballot-counting errors, discouraging fraud, and improving the security and reliability of electronic voting machines in future elections. Unfortunately, of the thirty-eight states that require or use voter-verifiable paper records throughout the state, twenty-three do not require such audits after every election.

  • Of the few states that currently require and conduct post-election audits, none has adopted audit models that will maximize the likelihood of finding clever and targeted software-based attacks, non-systemic programming errors, and software bugs that could change the outcome of an election.

  • We are aware of only one state, North Carolina, that has collected and made public the most significant data from post-election audits for the purpose of improving future elections. Based upon our review of state laws and interviews with state election officials, we have concluded that the vast majority of states conducting audits are not using them in a way that will maximize their ability to improve elections in the future.

  • Regardless of the audit model a jurisdiction implements, there are several simple, practical, and inexpensive procedures that it can adopt to achieve the most important post-election auditing goals, without imposing unnecessary burdens on election officials.

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