Aug 10 Excerpt: Audit vs. Scanner Counts – Issues in Three Towns

Ballot Count and Vote Count Accuracy

In previous reports we have noted large numbers of differences between optical scanner counts and manual counts in the audits. This time there was one district with large reported differences in vote counts representing 200 of the 218 vote differences. However, the number of districts with such differences was significantly reduced during this audit. We hope this represents a general improvement, however, this may well be the result of a much simpler, smaller audit. Primaries have no cross-endorsed candidates, no write-in votes, audit only one vote for one race per ballot, and there are far fewer ballots. We will reserve judgment until after the larger, more complex November 2010 election audit observation.

Aug 2010 Nov 2009
Candidate vote counts[1] 35507 321779
Differences 218 1211
Differences per 1000 vote counts 6.14 3.76

Table 4: Total vote count accuracy

Count Difference % Of All Counts

Aug 2010

% Of All Counts

Nov 2009

0 98.0% 56.6%
1-3 1.0% 30.9%
4-6 0.5% 7.6%
7-9 0,0% 1.9%
>10 0.5% 3.1%
Total 100.00% 100.00%

Table 5: Distribution by Difference of Candidate Counts between
Hand-Counted Votes and Machine-Counted Votes.

It is difficult to realistically compute and compare ballot count accuracy. In each audit several towns report large errors that obviously cannot be accurate as machine or hand counts.

Serious Inaccuracy Issues in Two Municipalities

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.

Serious Issue with Ballots in One Municipality

One serious issue in one district in one municipality deserves note in this audit: Several districts in one town were selected, but in one case in the municipality, the ballot bag contained only blank ballots.  From our observer:

I was told that ballots were kept in the room where the audit occurred. However, unused ballots apparently go to a different storage site, and the first bag opened contained unused ballots. I was told that the actual ballots must have gone back to the other storage facility and that the moderator “must have sealed the wrong bag… To my knowledge no one made the Elections Division of the Office of the SOTS aware of this as the Audit Procedure Manual mandates should be done “immediately.”

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.  The Secretary of the State’s Office had checked-off this district as returning a report and did not notice the report was missing until it was pointed out by the coalition.

[1] This table reflects all the audit reports as of the date of calculation based on all the audit reports received form the Secretary of the State’s Office, augmented by several reports collected by observers from municipalities where reports were not received from the Secretary of the State’s Office.