Colorado Launches First-in-Nation Robust Vote Tally Audit Statewide

Election officials in Colorado are setting an example for nation today, taking a critical step to double-check the reported results of last week’s election with a statewide “risk limiting” post-election audit.

The new election procedure has a high probability of detecting and thwarting any significant problem – from a foreign cyberattack to innocent programming errors – with vote tallying systems.  The 2016 election cycle was marred by multiple, documented cyberattacks on U.S.  election infrastructure. 

“Secretary of State Wayne Williams should be commended for his extraordinary leadership in championing this critical reform. Our times demand it.” Said Karen Hobert Flynn, President of Common Cause. “Colorado sets an example for the nation to protect ourselves from hacking and interference in our elections by any entity, foreign or domestic.”

“The risk-limiting audit is one example of Colorado’s commitment to election integrity,” said Elizabeth Steele, elections director for Colorado Common Cause. “The state already has some of the nation’s most voter-friendly election laws. More than 90 percent of Coloradans vote by mail and have until a week before the election to register; those who choose to vote in person can register all the way up to and including Election Day.”

Risk-limiting audits demand that close races get more scrutiny. If the margin of victory is very close, even one faulty scanner could alter the reported outcome of the election and so the risk-limiting audit examines a larger, randomly-selected sample of ballots. If the margin of victory is wide, fewer ballots need to be reviewed to ensure with high confidence that the reported outcome is correct – assuming that the audit does not uncover problems.

“We highly commend Secretary of State Wayne Williams, his office, and every county clerk in Colorado for working hard to implement this critical, confidence-building procedure,” said Susannah Goodman, Director of the Voting Integrity Program at Common Cause. “Colorado’s old audit procedure simply spot-checked machine function. It didn’t tell us what we really want to know… which is ‘did the winner really win? With the risk limiting audit, everyone can be assured to a higher degree of confidence that the election outcome is correct – or that a full manual recount occurs to correct it.”

The risk limiting audit begins today and continues through Saturday. The process is observable and transparent. Colorado is the first state to implement these types of audits statewide; New Mexico conducts a similar procedure in selected races and Rhode Island adopted legislation this year that will put the audits in place statewide.