In a first for Virginia, elections officials gathered Thursday and Friday at the Fairfax County Courthouse to prove that election results from June’s primary were correct. The risk-limiting audit was for the Republican U.S. Senate primary results in the city of Fairfax. It was a demonstration of what could be done statewide in future elections as a statistical check to provide more evidence that the final results based on counts from ballot scanners are correct. The audits, when done for an entire election, are meant to show statistical confidence that the winner really won and the loser or losers really lost. Results of the first audit completed Friday showed the results of 69 randomly selected ballots scanned by a machine Thursday matched the hand count of those same ballots done Friday morning. (One ballot was selected twice by the random process).
There were two changes noted: One vote shifted from E.W. Jackson to Nick Freitas, and one vote shifted from Freitas to Jackson. Elections officials believe that the vote outcomes were not changed, but that the ballots were reshuffled in the stack, and were not properly matched up. One extra ballot was found stuck to another ballot, but it had no impact, because the voter left it blank.
Because of the sample size and confirmation of the matchup between the scanned ballots and hand-counted ballots, statistical modeling gives a 97 percent confidence that the initial scanning was correct.
A second audit of 300 ballots, which included some duplicates selected twice through the random process, was checked using a different method Friday afternoon.
That ballot polling audit did not provide enough of a margin to provide strong evidence about the exact result, due to the extremely small number of ballots cast in the city of Fairfax during this election. However, the hand count audit results did essentially match up with the actual results of Thursday’s ballot scans.