Florida: New post-election audit method could improve detection of vote-counting flaws – and fix them | Palm Beach Post

In California, 13 million people voted in the 2008 presidential race. But double-checking the result could have been as simple as looking at the right 96 ballots. Post-election audits in Florida are done with hand recounts of a sliver of ballots, taken from a few random precincts. They help identify widespread problems, as one did recently in Wellington, when it caught the fact that results for three races had been accidentally switched by Palm Beach County’s vote-counting software. But they tell you nothing about what happened in precincts that weren’t checked. In theory, a huge problem could go undetected. A new method of audit – developed by Philip Stark, statistics department vice chairman at the University of California, Berkeley – gets around that. Stark’s method works like an opinion poll, by looking at a random sample of ballots from across the race. The key word is random: The ballots have to be picked with precision, from a master list of every ballot cast. Once picked, only that ballot will do. The number of ballots reviewed depends on the margin of victory. Tighter races need more ballots. In California in 2008, Barack Obama won with 61 percent of the vote, so 96 ballots would do. If Obama had won with 52 percent, the state would have needed to check about 3,900 ballots, Stark said.

Full Article: New post-election audit method could improve detection of vote-counting flaws – and fix them.

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