Aug 10 Excerpt: Recommendations

Each of our previous reports included recommendations and updated recommendations to the Legislature and the Secretary of State.  We have added on recommendation, VI, to the previous list.

I. Independent Audits

The current system of the conduct of audits by individual towns lacks consistency, accuracy, and professionalism.   A nonpartisan, independent audit board or professional team of independent auditors should conduct the audits.

However, if audits continue to be conducted by local officials, we recommend the measures below to improve the security and integrity of Connecticut’s election outcomes.   Many of these same recommendations would apply if an independent audit board were established, with the board performing many of the audit functions now performed by or recommended to the Secretary of the State.

II. Audit Selection, Notification and Reporting

* This section would also apply to independently-conducted audits

A. Amend PA 07-194 on selection and notification to:

  1. require that the Secretary of the State randomly select the races to be audited during the same public event as the random selection of districts or was required to be announced and held publicly in each selected municipality.  In elections where federal and/or constitutional statewide offices appear on the ballot, at least one such race should be randomly selected from those federal races on the ballot and one race selected from statewide races on the ballot.
  2. require that races randomly selected for audit be chosen by the Secretary of the State for all districts.
  3. require that towns selected for audit be officially notified of their selection in a legally acceptable form, including an immediate posting of the list of audit sites on the Secretary of the State’s Website.
  4. require that towns provide ample notice of the scheduling and location of post-election audits to the Secretary of the State and on their municipal websites or local newspapers. We urge the Secretary of State’s office to review how other states are establishing and publicizing the schedule of audits and race selection to ensure maximum public notice and transparency.

B. Amend PA 07-194 to mandate deadlines for:

  1. random selection of audit locations
  2. completion of audits
  3. municipalities to report audit results to the Secretary of the State’s office

C. Amend PA 07-194 on reporting to:

  1. mandate a deadline for completion of required UConn reports and require that  those reports include statistical data on deviations from the standards set in the audit law and reports on any incomplete or missing audit data
  2. mandate timely publication of a final comprehensive report of each statewide audit and require that the report include local statistics and analysis from local audit report forms, elections officials’ and observers’ (if any) observations, and conclusions regarding the effectiveness of the audit. The report should be readily available to the public

D. Amend PA 07-194 on reporting to:

  • require that audit reports be compared to the machine tapes and election night or final amended reports to assure that the correct machine tape counts are recorded.

III. General Provisions

A. Procedures that will yield trusted audits must be specified in law or regulation and must be made enforceable by the State Elections Enforcement Commission.  Procedures should also provide a mechanism for the Secretary of State’s office to report irregularities to appropriate authorities such as the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

B. The Secretary of State’s Office should:

  1. establish mechanisms and controls to audit the audits (log, detect and take action on errors) to assure that prescribed methods are followed.  Audit reports that are incomplete or contain obvious or unexplained discrepancies should be rejected by the Secretary of State’s office and corrective action taken by election officials.
  2. increase competency of registrars and election officials in election audits through mandatory educational programs that include security, audit organization, and conduct; the steps and details of the audit procedures; counting methods; and organizing and supervising the audit teams.

C. Amend PA 07-194 to:

  1. mandate investigation and independent analysis of data discrepancies which are not  thoroughly and reasonably explained .
  2. require that copies of the Moderators’ Returns, and machine tapes, be present at the audit for review
  3. mandate that all ballots in all elections remain sealed until thirty days after all audits and audit investigations are complete.  They should be released only after the Secretary of the State’s notification in writing that the audit and investigations are complete.  During that period ballots should only be unsealed temporarily for the purpose of recounts, audits, and state investigations – and resealed whenever audits, recounts, and investigations are complete or continued.
  4. resolve the conflicting demands for any extended audit investigations with the need for re-programming of memory cards in preparation for new elections or referenda.
  5. limit the role that candidates can perform in the post-election audit process.  Opposed candidates, even if they are sitting registrars, should not supervise or have official roles in post-election audits. The Secretary of State’s office should develop procedures to identify who will supervise and have an official role in audits in cases of this kind of conflict.
  6. set forth specific and enforceable criteria for chain of custody, access logs,  and secure storage facilities for ballots, memory cards, and machines. The Secretary of the State’s office should establish a system of random unannounced inspections of storage facilities and access logs.

IV. Audit Procedures

A. The Secretary of the State should provide detailed guidance on methods of auditing that are efficient, transparent, specific, and accurate.  National efforts should be reviewed, such as California’s recently adopted audit procedures, the audit practices of Minnesota, recommendations of the Brennan Center, and the Principles and Best Practices for Post Election Audits[1].

B. The Secretary of State should amend procedures to:

  1. remove the subjectivity associated with the identification of what constitutes an undisputed ballot and a ballot containing a questionable vote.
  2. require all tallies be performed in public and audit reports be filled out as part of the actual public audit and displayed publicly at the end of the audit along with the tally sheets.
  3. require that the results of all original manual counts and repeated counts, when necessary, be reported to the Secretary of the State’s Office.

V. Public Involvement

Observers’ rights should be established in law. As long as observers don’t interfere with the hand counting process, the public should be allowed to observe and verify all phases of the election audit from district and race selection through any follow-up investigation.

VI. Random District Selection Integrity (New Aug 2010 Report)

In order that the random district selection is publicly verifiable and more accurate, with mechanisms for re-establishing audit integrity in the case of errors discovered:

A. Amend Sec. 9-50b to:

require registrars to maintain an accurate list of districts with the Secretary of the State for inclusion in the Central Voter Registration System (CVRS), with each district identified by a unique district number for the Municipality

B. Amend Sec 9-314

require the Head Moderator to submit copies of each district totals and copies of all closing scanner tapes from the election or primary 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. Each district should be identified by unique district number for the Municipality as listed in the CVRS.

C. Remove Sec. 9-322a, which requires the district results from the Municipal Clerk sixty (60) days after the election or primary.

D. Amend PA 07-194 to:

  1. require the Secretary of the State to make available a copy of an extract of districts from the CVRS for public review at the random district drawing.
  2. require the Secretary of the State to make available a copy of the District Reports and Head Moderator’s Reports for public review at the random district drawing.
  3. require that each district in the drawing be identified by municipality and by the unique district number listed in the CVRS and the district reports.
  4. require in the case of errors discovered after the drawing, in the list of districts for random selection (omissions, non-existent districts, or ambiguities), they must be, by law resolved in a way that restores the integrity of the audit. For instance, when selected districts are ambiguous, audit integrity could be restored by auditing all possible districts implicated by such ambiguities; when districts are omitted from the drawing, integrity could be restored by auditing those districts.