The American Statistical Association Board of Directors announces its endorsement of Principles and Best Practices for Post-Election Tabulation Audits. The December 2018 document–which updates a 2008 document with the latest statistical research and best practices–“is meant to provide guidance to relevant legislative bodies, state and local election administrators and vendors…” because a “healthy democracy requires widespread trust in elections… [and] people need to be sure that the official election outcomes match the will of the voters.” Imagine someone counted hundreds of blue, red and white marbles in a bag and concluded there are many more red marbles than blue marbles. How can you trust that conclusion? You could dump out the marbles and count each one. Or you could use statistics to do the job faster.
If you pull out 20 blue marbles in a row, you’ll want to recount the whole bag. But if you pull them out one at a time and end up with 19 reds and one blue, you can stop–there’s too small a chance that you did that with more blues than reds in the bag.
You’ve established the basis of risk-limiting audits, one of nine post-election auditing principles in Principles and Best Practices for Post-Election Tabulation Audits, endorsed by the American Statistical Association. The December 2018 document updates a 2008 document with the latest statistical research and best practices.
“Given heightened concerns about foreign subversion of election systems and processes, election officials and legislators around the country are turning their attention to post-election audits as part of the solution,” said Mark Lindeman, a senior officer with Verified Voting who has expertise in risk-limiting audits and co-wrote the document. “The interest in audits has never been greater. Unfortunately, a lot of specific proposals for how to conduct audits are inadequate or fundamentally misguided.”
Principles and Best Practices for Post-Election Tabulation Audits includes guidelines for auditing elections and a brief appendix explaining risk-limiting audits.
“The principles document should be readable by anyone interested in implementing best practice post-election audits,” Lindeman said. “Election officials, legislators, citizens advocating for better election verification can read this document and use it as a starting point for their strategies and implementation.”