Aug 2010 Post-Election Audit Observation Report – Incremental Improvement – New Integrity Concern

<Press Release .pdf<Full Report .pdf> <Executive Summary>
<Audit Organization, Chain of Custody, and Report Timeliness>

<Audit vs. Scanner Counts: Issues in Three Towns>
<New Integrity Concern and Recommendations>
<Recommendations> <Supporting Documents>

Summary, from the Press Release and Report:

Coalition Finds Small Improvements and New Problem in
Connecticut Post-Election Audits

Citizen observation and analysis shows some improvements along with a newly uncovered problem with the random selection process

This is the sixth major post-election audit observation report by the Coalition since the adoption of optical scanners and paper ballots statewide.

Coalition Executive Director, Luther Weeks noted, “Unfortunately, we discovered that the list of polling districts for the random audit drawing was missing some districts and is otherwise inaccurate and ambiguous.  The integrity of the audit requires an accurate list of districts that is verifiable by the public. We have extended our recommendations to the Legislature to include an efficient fix to this problem.”

League of Women Voters of Connecticut President, Cheryl Dunson said: “Compared to previous audits, the Coalition noted continuing incremental improvements in the attention to detail, following procedures, and in the chain-of-custody by election officials. We caution that the primary audit is simpler and shorter than those for November elections which may account for the much more accurate counting this time.”

We conclude that August post-election audits still do not inspire confidence because of:

  • failure in the integrity of the random district selection process,
  • lack of standards for determining need for further investigation of discrepancies,
  • weaknesses in the ballot chain of custody, and
  • lack of, consistency, reliability, and transparency in the conduct of the audit.

Each of these items individually could impact the integrity of the statewide post-election audit and calls into question the credibility of the entire post-election audit.

Although most of our general observations and concerns remain, we observed improvements in following audit procedures, in the accuracy of the counting, and in the completion of forms.

Connecticut Citizen Action Group Executive Director, Tom Swan said, “The integrity of the entire audit is dependent the ballot chain-of-custody and on every step of the audit being accurately accomplished in a consistent, transparent, and professional manner. We continue to support our past recommendations to the Secretary of the State and the Legislature for improvement in the post-election audit laws, counting procedures, and chain-of-custody.”

Weeks added, “We look forward to the post-election audit of the November election. We hope to see significant improvement in following procedures along with more accurate counting, demonstrated in the November post-election audit which will involve more extensive, complex counting. ”

Observers came from the membership ranks of the coalition partners — The League of Women Voters of Connecticut, The Connecticut Citizen Action Group, Common Cause Connecticut, and Connecticut Voters Count. Without volunteer observers, nobody but a small number of local election officials would know what happens in post-election audits.

New Overall Audit Integrity Concern

A new concern surfacing this year is the inaccurate list of districts used in the random selection process which is required by law to be based on all of the districts used in the election. This directly impacts the integrity and credibility of the entire post-election audit.

Issues In Three Towns

Several districts in one town were selected, but in one case in the municipality, the ballot bag contained only blank ballots.  In subsequent discussions with the registrar, she reported that a novice moderator in a multiple district polling place had sealed all voted ballots in one bag and all unused ballots in another bag.  [As far as we know, this district was never counted as it was not included in Audit Reports from the Secretary of the State.]

In the one district: The official Audit Report indicates 1703 machine counted ballots but only 688 manually counted ballots counted in the audit. In that same audit report 188 ballots are listed for one party with a total of 254 votes in the race audited for that party. The huge difference may represent poor counting procedures and lack of understanding of the audit procedures, however, we have no way of determining the accuracy of the audit nor of the official reporting of results.  Our observer’s comments:

They never counted the ballots first…One team referenced the Tally Sheet from Election night. They recounted their votes until the figures agreed… Checking was done to the Tally Sheet off the Moderator’s report not the machine tape… I did not observe a machine tape, only the Moderator’s return with the Tally Sheet.   When I asked if they had a machine tape, I was told no by one of the Registrars.    When I asked if there was a tape in the ballot bag, I was told no… I have concern about the number entered on the “LT Gov”

These results may represent incompetence. However, incompetence uninvestigated transparently leaves an opening to cover-up fraud and error. The Secretary of the State’s Office had reviewed district results, yet apparently did not notice these large differences until it was pointed out by the coalition.

In one of the last district reports provided to the Secretary of the State’s Office: In one district in one municipality which audited three districts there was a significant difference between the machine counts in one race and the hand count reported.  For two candidates the machine counted 262 and 154 votes while the hand counts were 132 and 78 votes for those same candidates.

<Press Release .pdf<Full Report .pdf> <Executive Summary>
<Audit Organization, Chain of Custody, and Report Timeliness>

<Audit vs. Scanner Counts: Issues in Three Towns>
<New Integrity Concern and Recommendations>
<Recommendations> <Supporting Documents>