What is lacking in Connecticut’s Post-Election Audits (Part 1)

Some contend that Connecticut has the Nation’s toughest post-election audit law. We contend it has several holes, is not well executed by officials, and if a voting machine were ever to count inaccurately the audit would be unlikely to recognize that. Almost certainly, there will be bills and proposals to weaken and strengthen the audit debated this year. Today, we will focus on:

A Very Critical Vote That will Not Be Audited

From the law:

The offices subject to the audit pursuant to this section shall be, (1) in the case of an election where the office of presidential elector is on the ballot, all offices required to be audited by federal law, plus one additional office selected in a random drawing by the Secretary of the State, but in no case less than three offices, (2) in the case of an election where the office of Governor is on the ballot, all offices required to be audited by federal law, plus one additional office selected in a random drawing by the Secretary of the State, but in no case less than three offices, (3) in the case of a municipal election, three offices or twenty per cent of the number of offices on the ballot, whichever is greater, selected at random by the municipal clerk, and (4) in the case of a primary election, all offices required to be audited by federal law, plus one additional office, if any, but in no event less than twenty per cent of the offices on the ballot, selected in a random drawing by the municipal clerk.

Overall pretty simple, if not clear in detail. Certain offices are randomly selected for audit, so every office is subject to selection. The random selection is designed to catch error fraud, by randomly selecting districts any place there might be an error fraud would be equally likely to be audited, so it seems.  And by randomly selecting offices for audit then any vote miscounted by error or fraud would be equally likely to be audited, so it seems.

I am sure you have guess by now, based on my saying “so it seems”, that it is actually not so. Just one of the problems is the word “Offices”. We do not just vote for offices, we also vote on questions on the ballot – a bonding issue, a budget in some towns, a change in a charter, or a change in the State Constitution. None of those are subject to audit and thus if there were an error or fraud anywhere or everywhere in Connecticut on one of those issues, an audit would never catch it.

Town have all sorts of bonding issues, budges, a change in a charter, or as my town and New London have had, a vote to remove or replace public park land. Do we have to point out that people care about those issues, voters, officials, and many insiders in the election process? Should those issues be exempt from the audit? We say no!

In 2008 there was and in 2014 there will be high interest questions on the ballot. In 2008 voters decided if we wanted a Constitutional Convention – a few days before the election polls said the vote would be ‘yes’. There was a campaign by officials to promote ‘No’. No won by a sizable margin. We think that was likely the correct winner based on the actual votes. Yet if it had been a bit closer, because of an error later discovered by activists, the result might have been in question, the error in the initially reported results might have been enough to avoid a recanvass to make sure a close vote was accurate. Should this question have been exempt from the audit? We say no!

In 2014 voters will a see a question to decide if we will give the Legislature the power to decide on early voting, including unlimited absentee voting for Connecticut – both of which are currently prohibited by the Constitution.

November is a long way off. But, in the Legislature and with the public there are strong feelings on both sides of this question. We expect it to generate a lot of op-eds, news stories, letters to the editor and blog posts. What if the vote is close? What if the vote is close, but just over the threshold for a recanvass? Should this question be exempt from the audit? We say no!

Should questions be exempt from the audit? We say no!
They are not exempt from the possibility of error and fraud.

PS: Here is an example of another gap that at minimum threatens credibility, a local election, very hotly contended, run by a single registrar <read>

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