Aug 10 Excerpt: A New Integrity Concern with the Random Drawing

A new concern uncovered 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 in use for the election or primary. This directly impacts the integrity and credibility of the entire post-election audit.

In our last report, we noted that the public has no reliable mechanism for checking the accuracy of the districts used in the random selection process.  Checking with the Secretary of the State’s Office indicated that they do not have a list of districts that is guaranteed to be up to date.

Unfortunately, our concerns were realized in this audit when non-existent and ambiguously identified districts were chosen to be audited. The selection process also may not have included some districts used in the election. We specifically note the following problems and concerns:

  • Two districts selected in one municipality were completely non-existent according to the registrars. That municipality was not audited.  The districts were apparently from an old list compiled prior to changes and consolidation. From the municipality’s web site, it also appears that at least one current district was not included in the districts eligible to be selected in the drawing.
  • In another municipality two districts were selected which are currently polling places, but the district numbers currently associated with polling places differ from those actually in use. The municipality chose to audit the named polling places.
  • In several municipalities the polling place audited was a different location than the one selected by the Secretary of the State. The municipalities at some point had moved the polling place locations.
  • In another municipality, the official Audit Report listed the districts audited by number only, while the districts selected by the Secretary of the State included only polling place name.

When districts move or are identified in various ways – with and without district numbers, with and without polling place location- it can be challenging to almost  impossible to verify that the list of polling places for the drawing is accurate or that the selected district is actually the one audited.

After the fact, it is possible to discover non-existent districts that were selected, but it would be quite challenging to identify districts not included in the selection list from the 169 towns. In either case, there is no current established legal or procedural means to restore the integrity of an audit based on a discovered inaccuracy.

An accurate, verifiable list of districts for selection is critical to the integrity of the audit. Missing or incorrectly specified districts can be the result of error or deliberate action on the part of election officials. If all discovered inaccuracies in the list are dismissed as errors, then the opportunity is opened for the cover-up of error and fraud by deliberately excluding some districts or through an ambiguity providing the opportunity to steer the audit away from particular districts.

If the list is not publicly verifiable, then we can only estimate the number of errors and ambiguities in the whole list based on those discovered during the selection.  In this audit, the selected list included at least approximately 5% non-existent districts (2 no longer polling places and districts, and at least 2 polling places with incorrect district numbers).  We have no way of estimating how many existing districts were not included in the list.

New Recommendations

There are several ways in which the list could become publicly verifiable and more accurate, with mechanisms for establishing audit integrity in the case errors are discovered, we recommend the following:

  1. Registrars should be required to maintain an accurate list of districts and polling places with the Secretary of the State for inclusion in the Central Voter Registration System (CVRS).  The Secretary of the State should be required to provide a list of districts extracted from the CVRS as of Election Day for public review at the random district drawing.
  2. Municipal clerks are now required by statute (9-322a) to submit district results of each election to the Secretary of the State’s office sixty (60) days after each election and the Head Moderator is required to submit consolidated election results for the municipality shortly after the election and after recanvasses.We recommend that the Municipal Clerk sixty (60) day report be eliminated[1].  Instead copies of each district totals and copies of all closing scanner tapes from the election or primary should also be submitted with the Head Moderator’s report shortly after the election or primary.  Provisions for later amended reports should also be included based on errors or corrections discovered.  The Secretary of the State should be required to provide the district reports for public review at the random district drawing.
  3. All listings of voting districts should be required to include district numbers, so that if districts are moved in an emergency, the district can be unambiguously identified by municipality and number.
  4. If omissions, non-existent districts, or ambiguities are discovered after the drawing, they must be, by law, resolved in away that restores the integrity of the audit.  For instance, when selected districts are ambiguous, audit integrity could be restored by auditing all possible districts for such ambiguities;  or when districts are omitted from the drawing integrity could be restored by auditing those districts.

Note: We also considered recommending that registrars be required to send lists of districts to the Secretary of the State before each election and the Secretary of the State be required to use that list for the audit random drawing. However, this would be less reliable and more difficult to enforce than the above recommendations.

Based on the recommendation, there should be no significant cost increase in requiring district results earlier, they are part of the District Moderator’s report submitted on election night to the Head Moderator and are required for calculations required on the Head Moderator’s report.

As an additional benefit, this recommendation would conform Connecticut’s audit to the commonly recognized audit integrity requirement[2] that all results be committed to and available before district random selection.

[1] We are unaware of any reason for such report be filed by the Municipal Clerk rather than the Registrar and the reason for a sixty (60) day delay. The information is available on election night. In special circumstances such as discovered transcription errors, recanvasses, court ordered recounts, or audit discrepancies there may well be justification for filing corrected forms.

[2] Principles and Best Practices for Post-Election Audits: Practice 4.c
and Report on Election Auditing by the Election Audits Task Force of the League of Women Voters of the United States Page 14