Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report spelled out in detail a Russian led operation to interfere in the 2016 election, one so successful, experts warn, they’ll probably try again. In light of these revelations, how do we protect the integrity of our elections? How can we be sure the right candidate actually won?
Election security experts agree there is one essential step to confirm whether voting machines are recording and tallying votes correctly and it’s so simple it can be carried out with a pen and paper; it’s called a risk-limiting audit (RLA).
States that verify the accuracy of their vote tallies do so the “traditional” way. The auditors manually recount votes in a predetermined percentage of precincts. This tells officials whether a particular machine or group of machines is working, but it doesn’t actually answer the essential question: Did the declared winner actually win?
RLAs instead do the recount the math geek way. They hand-count a statistically meaningful sample of all votes to determine whether the original tally was correct. The required sample increases as the margin of victory narrows. These audits can be conducted publicly and can provide voters with confidence that a counting error or malicious attack did not change the outcome.
So why aren’t states auditing election results using RLAs. Money, of course.
“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been blocking many election security bills, in part, because he dislikes federal interference. But some of this legislation contains incentives for switching to risk-limiting audits — not the sort of shove from the federal government that “Moscow Mitch” deplores, but a helping hand. He should let states take it to protect against Russia and other adversaries’ far less friendly reach.”
“A simple step every state could take to safeguard elections” https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/election-security-that-mitch-mcconnell-should-get-behind/2019/10/21/319eec70-f1d7-11e9-8693-f487e46784aa_story.html
Deluzio, Christopher “A Smart and Effective Way to Safeguard Elections” https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/smart-and-effective-way-safeguard-elections