Aug 10 Excerpt: Executive Summary

After the August 2010 primary elections, Connecticut conducted its sixth large-scale post-election audit.  This was also the Connecticut Citizen Election Audit Coalition’s sixth large audit observation.  The coalition includes the League of Women Voters of Connecticut, Connecticut Common Cause, Connecticut Citizen Action Group, and Connecticut Voters Count. The purpose of the observation was to demonstrate citizen interest in the process, increase citizen involvement in elections, provide feedback to the Secretary of the State and the Legislature on the audit process, and provide members of the public with information necessary to determine their confidence in our elections.

By law, the Secretary of the State is required, in each election, to select at random 10% of Connecticut’s voting districts to participate in post-election audits.  In a primary election, town clerks of municipalities with selected districts randomly select one race to audit in each district – for each party holding a primary in that district.

In this report, we conclude, based on our observations and analysis of audit reports submitted to the Secretary of the State that the 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.

However, we caution that this August primary was a much smaller, simpler audit than typical for November elections. There was only one race to count per party, with significantly fewer ballots, no write-in votes, and no cross-endorsed ballots.

We note three serious situations where one municipality did not audit a selected district when ballots could not be located for the counting session, another municipality which could not produce a scanner tape, reported huge differences between the manual counts of ballots and the machine counts of ballots along with more votes in one race than ballots, and one municipality which reported about half as many votes in one race than the scanner counted.

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.

We note continuing failures of audit and chain-of-custody procedures.  We emphasize that this report does not question any individual’s integrity.  However, a safe, credible system of security procedures should not permit a single individual to have any extended opportunity to handle ballots unobserved. Without a credible chain-of-custody, security of the ballots and the integrity of the entire audit are at risk.

Neither the random selection of races nor investigations of discrepancies after the audits are required to be public or noticed to the public.  The extent to which they are not noticed, not made public, or are prohibitively difficult to observe, impacts the integrity and credibility of the entire post-election audit.


In our previous reports, the Coalition made recommendations to the Legislature and the Secretary of the State to improve the post-election audit laws, by providing for an independent audit board, improved chain-of-custody procedures, and improved audit [1] procedures.  The latest version of those recommendations is updated and included in Appendix C of this report.

One recommendation was added with this report, aimed at resolving the newly recognized integrity issue with the list of districts used for random selection.

Audit procedures continue to present challenges for elections officials. We observed several   failures to follow prescribed procedures.  Compared to previous observations, we noted less difficulty in implementing efficient and accurate counting methods, and less inaccurate or incomplete reporting. However, we urge caution until similar improvements are observed in the larger, more complex post–election audits in November.  We continue to strongly recommend that best practices for effective counting procedures be established.  Coalition members and observers would welcome the opportunity to contribute to the development of such best practices.

Even in these challenging economic times, many of our recommendations can be implemented to strengthen the post-election audits, make them more comprehensive, and provide a more efficient process with enhanced integrity without significant additional expense.

[1] In this document we will frequently use the term “audit” when we mean “post-election audit” or “post-election audit counting session”. Technically we believe that the whole process encompassing everything from the preservation of records, random drawings, counting in municipalities, the report by the University of Connecticut, and the evaluation of that report by the Secretary of the State would be the “audit”.  However, for readability we will usually follow the common practice of using “audit” to refer to parts of the whole.