Statistical Analysis of the Post Election Audit Data 2009 November Elections

The Center for Voting Technology Research (VoTeR Center) at the School of Engineering of the University of Connecticut received the data gathered in the post-election audit in the State of Connecticut following the November 2009 election. The audits involved the randomly selected 10% of the districts and the audit returns were conveyed by the Office of the Secretary of the State (SOTS) to the Center on December 8th and 18th of 2009. The original audit data contained 776 records, where each record represents information about a given candidate: date, district, machine seal number, office, candidate, machine counted total, hand counted total of the votes considered unquestionable by the auditors, hand counted total of the votes considered questionable by the auditors, and the hand counted total, that is, the sum of undisputed and questionable ballots. The VoTeR Center’s initial review of audit reports prepared by the towns revealed a number of returns with unexplained differences between hand and machine counts and also revealed discrepancies in cases of cross-party endorsed candidates (i.e., candidates whose names appear twice on the ballot because they are endorsed by two parties). As a result, the SOTS Office performed additional information-gathering and investigation and, in some cases, conducted independent hand-counting of ballots. The resulting information was conveyed to the VoTeR Center on February 9th and 24th of 2010. Further information gathering was conducted by the SOTS Office to identify the cause of the moderately large discrepancies, and to identify the cause of discrepancies for cross-party endorsed candidates. The resulting information was conveyed to the VoTeR Center on March 19, 2009.

This report presents the results in three parts: (i) the analysis of the original audit records that did not involve cross-party endorsed candidates, (ii) the analysis of the audit records for cross-party endorsed candidates, and (iii) the analysis of the records that were revised based on the SOTS Office follow up. The analysis does not include 6 records (0.8%) that were found to be incomplete. In more detail, part (i) deals with 447 (57.6%) records that were complete and contained no obvious audit errors. All of these 447 records (100%) show a discrepancy of 3 votes or lower, with 431 records (96.4%) showing discrepancy of 0 or 1 vote between the machine counts and audit hand counts. The largest discrepancy is a single case of 3. Part (ii) deals with 52 records (6.7%) involving cross-party endorsed candidates. As a result of the second SOTS Office follow up, it was confirmed that large discrepancies reported for the cross-party endorsed candidates were due to the fact that the auditors did not correctly assign hand counted votes to the specific party endorsements. We present the analysis of the original 32 (4.1%) cross-party endorsed records, and 20 (2.6%) records that were revised by the SOTS Office. Part (iii) deals with the revised audit returns gathered by the SOTS Office. The main conclusion in this report is that for all cases where non-trivial discrepancies were originally reported, it was determined that hand counting errors or vote misallocation were the causes. No discrepancies in these cases were reported to be attributable to incorrect machine tabulation. For the original data where no follow up investigation was performed, the discrepancies were small; in particular, the average reported discrepancy is much lower than the number of the votes that were determined to be questionable. For the cross party endorsement, it is important for the auditors to perform hand counting of the votes that precisely documents for which party endorsement the votes were cast, and to note all cases where more than one bubble was marked for the same candidate. The SOTS follow up confirmed that large discrepancies were the result of mistakes in hand counting. Therefore, the auditors should be better trained to follow the correct process of hand count audit. The analysis does not include 6 records (0.8% of 776) that were found to be incomplete, unusable, or obviously incorrect. This is an improvement relative to the November 2007 and November 2008 elections, where we reported 18% and 3.2% of the records that were unusable. The audit was performed at the request of the Office of the Secretary of the State.

Full report: 2009-nov-hand13

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