In the face of overwhelming evidence that the Russians meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, states are adopting auditing measure to detect any possible direct ballot fraud and give voters confidence in the results. After clear evidence emerged that Russia attempted to influence the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election by social media, and more directly by hacking election systems, state governments are embarking on a variety of efforts to use statistical auditing to verify election results. On Nov. 15, Colorado kicked off its first statewide statistical audit of its most recent election by using a statistical technique known as risk-limiting audits to establish the integrity of the vote. Because of mail-in ballots from voters serving in the military, the state had to wait eight days to receive all votes and initiate the audit. Risk-limiting audits, or RLAs, allow election officials to verify the outcome of an election by sampling a much smaller subset of ballots compared to a full recount. Verifying the results of presidential elections in each state from 1992 to 2008, for example, only requires an average of 307 ballots per state. The number of ballots required to verify the vote, however, increases as the contests become closer and eventually defaults to a full recount, in the case of an extremely close race. Colorado’s legislature voted to adopt an election-wide audit in 2010, and election officials began piloting RLA in 2013.
… The Russian efforts also came up during the press conference with Colorado officials and election-integrity experts.
“We are facing a new paradigm in the security of our elections that we have not faced before, where we have concerns about the possibility of cyber-actors trying to influence our elections,” Susan Greenhalgh, vice president of programs for advocacy group Verified Voting, told reporters.
“This is providing transparency in the election process, verifiability for the voters and increasing voter confidence that … their votes were counted correctly. Considering the new world that we live in, it is very important that we implement these types of programs.”