Senate should pass post-election audit legislation

Written by Tyler Creighton on January 13, 2014

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Verified Voting President Pam Smith and MIT computer science professor Ronald Rivest sent the following letter to the Massachusetts Senate in support of post-election audits to ensure accurate election results.

Dear Senator,

We write to urge you to require post-election audits in HB 3788.

No voting system is perfect. Nearly all elections in Massachusetts are counted using electronic voting systems. Such systems have produced result-changing errors through problems with hardware, software and procedures. Error can also occur when compiling results. Even serious error can go undetected if results are not audited effectively.

In a municipal election in Palm Beach County, Florida in 2012 a "synchronization" problem with the election management software allotted votes to both the wrong candidate and the wrong contest; this was uncovered during a post-election audit. The results were officially changed after a public hand count of the votes.i In another state, a software malfunction caused thousands of votes to be added to the total. A manual audit revealed the mistake and officials were able to correct the results and avoid a costly run-off election.ii

With any such example of malfunction or error that can cause the wrong outcome to be reported, regular audits help find and correct for those errors. Post election audits can:

    • reveal when recounts are necessary to verify election outcomes;
    • find error, whether accidental or intentional;
    • deter fraud;
    • provide for continuous improvement in the conduct of elections; and
    • promote public confidence in election outcomes.

Audits are one of the least costly elements in the conduct of elections, but arguably one of the most important. Just as banks regularly conduct audits to make sure all the dollars and decimal points are going where they belong, elections are important enough to us to make sure they work correctly and that the public can have confidence in the results. Post election audits are a tool to help do just that. Please include post-election audits for Massachusetts in HB3788. Thank you.

Pamela Smith, President Verified Voting

Ronald L. Rivest, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Voting and Elections

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