About half the states, including Connecticut, have both paper ballots and post-election audits. Because our audits were transparent and publicly verifiable, Connecticut Citizen Election Audit observers have been able to reveal multiple flaws in the process and in the official reporting of audit results. Earlier this year, however, the General Assembly unanimously cut Connecticut’s the audits from 10 percent of districts to 5 percent. Now there is more bad news: our already inadequate audits have been partially replaced by electronic “audits” which are not transparent and not publicly verifiable. Instead, we now have “black box voting” augmented by “black box auditing.” This should satisfy only those with blind trust in computers and blind trust in insiders with access to the “audit” computers. Last week, without public notice, seven Connecticut municipalities conducted electronic “audits” under the guidance of the UConn Center for Voting Technology and the Secretary of the State’s Office, using the Audit Station developed by the Voter Center. There is a science of election audits. Machine-assisted audits can offer efficiency and ease of use, but any audit process needs to be transparent and provide for independent public verification of the results. Machine-assisted manual audits in California and Colorado demonstrate how this can be achieved. Public verification begins with publicly rescanning the ballots and providing the public with a computer readable list of how each ballot was counted. Then selecting a small random sample of the ballots and comparing the actual voter verified ballots to the record of how the machine counted them.
It is puzzling that the UConn Voter Center, the General Assembly, and the Secretary of the State have consistently chosen to ignore the peer-reviewed science which would provide an actual audit, appropriately trusted, even faster, and even less work for local officials.
Compare existing election audits to professional audits. Professional audits include examining a sample of original documents such as receipts from vendors or signed checks. Such audits are performed by individuals independent of those accountable for doing the original job. Public verifiability is critical to post-election audits, because they are performed by those responsible for conducting the election itself, protecting the original ballots, evaluating and recommending the election equipment.