Colorado vote audit offers tool to boost confidence in elections

Colorado is using an innovative process to show it counted votes accurately — a reform that, if adopted more widely, could bolster public confidence in elections.

And there are signs that election officials beyond the Mile High State are paying attention.

Colorado’s risk-limiting audit, completed November 22, involved a manual recount of a random sample of ballots from this month’s election. Officials used a complex statistical process to confirm that voting machines counted the ballots in the same way that a human would have.

All 50-plus counties that held elections this month passed the audit. In a statement, Secretary of State Wayne Williams (pictured), a Republican, called the test “an amazing success.”

The audit was observed by election officials from Rhode Island, which has passed legislation requiring risk-limiting audits by 2020. It also was watched by officials with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which aims to spread best practices in election administration.

“Colorado’s risk-limiting audit provided great insights into how to conduct more efficient and effective post-election audits,” EAC chair Matt Masterson said in a statement to The Denver Post. “The EAC is eager to share some of the lessons learned with election officials across America.”

Colorado passed a bill to create the audit in 2009. But thanks to technical challenges, it hadn’t conducted one until now.

The first audit comes at a time of widespread concern about the legitimacy of the voting and vote-counting processes. It’s a sentiment fueled by the reality of foreign interference; by the current state of mutual partisan distrust; and, perhaps most important, by the fact that many voting machines provide no paper record.

Russian-linked hackers last year targeted numerous state voter registration databases, the federal government has said. And earlier this year, good-government groups sued Georgia, alleging that officials ignored warnings that the state’s voting system was vulnerable to hacking. Four days later, state officials deleted the state election data.

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