If the term “audit” either makes you shudder or makes you want to snooze, you’re not alone. But a post-election audit can be an integral step in ensuring the integrity of the election process. Voting machines go through lots of pre-election testing. They are tested against federal guidelines and state requirements, and then election officials do trial runs called “logic and accuracy testing” before each election to ensure they are working as they should (see NCSL’s webpage on Voting System Standards, Testing and Certification). But the pre-election testing doesn’t tell you whether or not the machine actually functioned correctly during the election. To do that, many states do additional testing after the election—a post-election audit. As explained by Pam Smith from the Verified Voting Foundation, “A post-election audit is a tool that election officials can use to prove that their voting systems are working properly and a tool that the public can use to have confidence that the outcome of the election was correct.”
In a post-election audit, election workers check paper records from the election, either paper ballots or voter-verified paper audit trails (VVPATs) produced by electronic voting machines against the results produced by the voting machine to ensure that the votes were counted as cast. Think of it as a partial recount; if it doesn’t hit any discrepancies, then the vote tallying overall is working correctly.
Since an audit is one way to make elections transparent, it’s not surprising to see that they are often conducted publicly, so that interested members of the public can attend and witness the process. Some states restrict who can be physically present during the audit (often to political party observers) but may make audit results public.
Full Article: The Canvass | April 2016.