Election security and integrity are critical to the foundations of a democracy. There are many opportunities for errors to occur in elections as even the best voting system can suffer from inaccuracies or tampering. Two of the easiest ways to ensure election security are to have a paper record of each vote, and to check the results by performing a post-election audit.
Washington State Ballots & Audits
Washington State currently has a state wide mail-in voting system using voter marked paper ballots tabulated by optical and digital scan machines. Voter marked paper ballots are critical for elections, as they allow for the results to be double-checked or audited to ensure that there were no machine errors, human errors, or outside interference impacting the results. But are the paper ballots in Washington State being audited? Currently Washington state law does not require mandatory auditing of elections (WA Rev Code § 29A.60.170 (3)). If no one is checking the ballots, how can we be sure that the machine-tabulated outcome of an election is actually the correct outcome?
There is a simple solution to improving the security of Washington State’s elections process. Implement risk-limiting audits. What is a risk-limiting audit (RLA)? A RLA is a procedure for manually checking a sample of ballots or voter-verifiable paper records from an electronic voting device that will have a large, pre-specified chance of correcting an erroneous election outcome. Risk limiting audits are practical, efficient, cost-effective, and can greatly reduce the need for recounts and election contest litigation.
Who is Performing Risk-Limiting Audits?
Starting in the fall of 2017, Colorado will be performing RLA’s in elections statewide. Various counties in CO have been performing RLA’s since 2010. New Mexico adopted a law requiring RLA’s on specified elections in 2009, and California has been conducting pilot programs for RLA’s in various counties. Colorado’s process of incorporating RLA’s into practice is available online, and contains a lot of great information. Rhode Island recently passed risk-limiting audit legislation with statewide audits possible by September 2018.
What Can I Do to Bring Risk-Limiting Audits to Washington State?
Education of your legislators, elections officials, the Secretary of State, County Auditors, as well as friends and family is key to raising awareness about the need for RLA’s in Washington State elections.
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