Amid national news reports about potential election-hacking by Russia — and a machine ballot miscount in North Kingstown last year — state lawmakers have added audits of vote tallies to their special-session agenda. At a rare Friday afternoon meeting in September, the House Judiciary Committee is also scheduled to vote on a criminal-sentencing overhaul that stalled out in the 2016 legislative session, and then got caught up in end-of-session chaos this past June. … That was expected. But the committee will also likely approve — and send along to the full House for action at Tuesday’s special session — a bill requiring post-election audits to make sure that the state’s voting machines — which are actually optical scanners — got the winners and losers right. The Senate has already passed a version of the bill, sponsored by Sen. James Sheehan. But that bill — and a matching House version with Republican and Democrat-sponsors — had not made it all the way when the regular session ended abruptly in June.
Testifying before a Senate committee last spring, John Marion, executive director of the citizens-advocacy group Common Cause, cited an instance in November 2016 when the polling place scanners in North Kingstown failed to record all of the ballots cast on a ballot question that day.
As he explained the scene to the lawmakers: the scanners were only programmed to record one ballot style when a second was actually sent to the polling station. “The initial unofficial results … were so lopsided that election officials questioned the outcome, and discovered the discrepancy.”
“When the ballots were run through a scanner that was programmed to read them correctly, additional votes were recorded,” Marion said. “This example begs the question … what if the outcome had not been lopsided?”