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Enhanced Post-Election Audits Coming Soon to PA

May 16, 2019 12:00 PM

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One of the crucial benefits of the new voting systems that counties are purchasing, in addition to greater security and accessibility, is the capacity to conduct enhanced post-election audits based on national standards.

In preparation for this advancement, the Department of State (DOS) convened a statewide audit work group earlier this year to consider models to augment Pennsylvania's post-election audit process.

The work group includes election directors from Allegheny, Lancaster, Mercer, Mifflin, Philadelphia and Sullivan counties, as well as one representative each from three stakeholder groups – Verified Voting, Brennan Center for Justice and Common Cause. The rest of the work group members are DOS employees.

The group has met three times and has additional meetings scheduled through the summer to draft a post-election audit proposal.

The proposal will be used to guide Philadelphia and Mercer counties as they pilot enhanced audits of election results after the November 2019 general election. County election officials will use mathematically proven sampling to verify election results after voters cast ballots on their new voting systems for the first time.

After testing the audit proposal in those two counties, the work group will draft a report with a final, recommended post-election audit process that can be used in all counties.

The commonwealth has committed to having every county employ these enhanced audits by the 2022 general election.

The report will include polling place materials and equipment audits, as well as a yet-to-be-determined method for risk-limiting audits, which are designed to provide statistical evidence that the election tabulation is correct. This is accomplished by hand counting key samples of voter-verified paper records.

In Pennsylvania, every voting system and paper ballot must include plain text that voters can use to verify their choices. In performing audits or recounts, elections officials also will use the plain text.  

In addition, the work group will recommend audit types and best practices that would be possible with some legislative updates to the election code.

I'll post an update on the work group's recommendations and report in the fall. 

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