Rhode Island Tightens Election Security with “Risk-Limiting” Audits

Rhode Island Tightens Election Security with "Risk-Limiting" Audits

America’s smallest state set a big example for the country on Tuesday.

America’s smallest state set a big example for the country on Tuesday.

Rhode Island’s legislature agreed to an innovative – though decidedly wonky – reform that will protect the integrity of state elections and reassure voters that their votes will be counted as cast.

The Ocean State’s House of Representatives gave final approval to a bill that will phase in “risk-limiting” audits after each election. The audits with allow officials to compare the paper ballots filled out by voters with vote totals reported on Election Night. The reviews will ensure that the candidates who appear to have won are in fact those who received the most votes.

“Rhode Island was ahead of the curve when we started using paper ballots in 1998,” said John Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island. “With this legislation, we remain ahead of the curve by adopting the most advanced type of post-election audits available.”

Gov. Gina Raimondo, D, has supported the new audits and is expected to sign the legislation promptly. While 31 other states have vote-auditing provisions in their election laws, Rhode Island will become only the second state to implement the risk-limiting audits; which are considered the gold standard for checking and confirming election results.

Rhode Island’s constructive action to counter the election threats posed by cyber-saboteurs like those Russia apparently unleashed last year contrasts with the Trump administration’s attempts to alarm the public with baseless claims that thousands of non-citizens voted in the presidential race.

Rather than offer aid to states to protect their voter registration databases and voting equipment against cyber intrusions, the administration has created a “voter fraud” commission rigged to bolster its campaign for voter identification restrictions, cuts in voting hours and locations and other steps to reduce voter turnout.

“Americans expect and deserve clean elections and in the wake of Russian attacks on our election infrastructure during the 2016 elections. It is vitally important that other states follow Rhode Island’s lead,” said Susannah Goodman, Common Cause’s director of voting integrity. “The number of potential threats to our elections and their level of sophistication is increasing so it is even more important to perform risk-limiting audits to safeguard the integrity of our elections.”

The new audits in Rhode Island are expected to begin next year. State officials moved to implement them after uncovering administrative errors that resulted in incorrect machine counts in two communities during the November 2016 election. The scanners used for the counting were re-programmed.