Arapahoe County is piloting a vote-checking system this week that promises to raise the level of confidence in the accuracy of election results in Colorado. Elections officials gathered Wednesday at the county’s clerk and recorder office in Littleton to put the system — dubbed the risk-limiting audit — through the paces. The goal is to work out the bugs and have it ready for statewide rollout by election day 2017, as required by the state legislature. “The way we do audits doesn’t present a good enough picture,” Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane said Wednesday. “Our citizens deserve to know that we have a fair, transparent and accurate voting process.” The way a post-election audit of ballots is done currently requires a canvass team to pull at least 500 randomly selected paper ballots and compare the results to the tally recorded by the tabulation machines used in the election. Under the risk-limiting audit, random numbers generated by a software program will identify certain ballots to be pulled for inspection. The sample size is statistically determined based on the total number of ballots cast, the margin of the contest and the audit results as they unfold. Philip Stark, chair of the statistics department at the University of California at Berkley, is the brains behind the new audit system. He said his method speaks directly to the accuracy of the election results rather than just the accuracy of the machines counting the votes. “The current system is a spot check of machine function,” Stark said. “This is getting strong statistical evidence that the outcome of the race is correct.”
… The risk-limiting system has been used in Ohio and California, which is considering expanding its use.
Crane, whose office is spending $15,000 to $20,000 to pilot the new audit system, thinks its greater sophistication means fewer ballots will have to be pulled and inspected before a sufficient level of confidence exists that the outcome is correct. “It’s a win-win — it’s faster and it’s done more efficiently,” he said. “By 2017, my hope is we’ll be able to stand up on our own and run with it.”