RELEASE: It Is Not Whether Or Not To Audit Elections, But How, As Explained in Short Paper and Spreadsheet from National Election Data Archive

From: Kathy Dopp <kathy_dot_dopp_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Tue Jan 16 2007 - 14:24:31 CST

RELEASE: National Election Data Archive

It Is Not Whether Or Not To Audit Elections, But How,
As Explained in Short Paper and Spreadsheet from National Election Data Archive

Salt Lake City, UT - January 17, 2007

The National Election Data Archive (NEDA) has released a short paper
explaining a new formula developed by Ronald Rivest of MIT to estimate
the minimum audit amounts that are mathematically sufficient to detect
vote count errors that could seat wrong candidates. NEDA's paper and
an easy-to-use spreadsheet to allow any layman to calculate how many
vote counts to audit for a particular election contest, can be found

There has been a nationwide debate as to whether or not to audit
election results to verify machine counts by manually counting paper
ballot records. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
insures deposits in banks because banks are subjected to certifiable
audits. The National Election Data Archive (NEDA) and other election
integrity activists want elections, one of the very foundations of our
way of life, to be held to a standard as high as the banking industry.

The debate has now shifted to whether or not election audits should be
statistically meaningful, mathematically sufficient, and transparent
or merely a small insufficient fixed rate sample unable to detect
cases when machine vote miscounts have reversed election outcomes.

As much as some people believe that an audit of a small fixed
percentage of vote counts is adequate, fixed rate audits are not
always adequate to detect vote miscounts that could put the wrong
candidate in office.

If the purpose of an election is to carry out the will of the people,
then the purpose of an audit is to make sure that election outcomes
accurately reflect that will. Anything less than a manual audit that
is sufficient to detect vote miscount that could put the wrong persons
into office is just a "Trust us", pseudo-audit that gives the public a
false sense of security.

An audit that is not transparent, publicly verifiable, and
statistically meaningful just wastes time, effort and money because it
does not ensure that election outcomes are correct.

A chart at the bottom of the "HowManyToAudit" spreadsheet demonstrates
the shortcomings of using fixed percentage audits to uncover vote
count errors, i.e. In an average US House race with a 1% margin
between candidates and 440 precinct counts, a 2% audit may only have
27% chance of uncovering vote count error, whereas a 20% audit may
have an 97% chance of uncovering vote count error.

Other requirements to ensure the integrity of election outcomes are
included in a set of 14 Recommendations for Ensuring the Integrity of
Elections by experts in election integrity. Sufficient audits and
public oversight are necessary to deter wholesale electronic fraud and

For the public to have oversight over election integrity, the public
needs to be allowed to fully observe all audit procedures, including
the random selection and manual vote counts, and before the audit
begins, a public report of all vote types and votes counted on each
machine needs to be publicly released. Audits are hand-counts of all
paper ballots associated with randomly selected machine counts.

Today, there is no state in America which audits sufficient vote
counts using adequate audit procedures to ensure the integrity of all
its election outcomes.
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Received on Tue Jan 1 14:12:45 2008

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