Verified Voting Blog: Post Election Audits for New Hampshire

January 27, 2014

The following testimony was presented by Verified Voting President Pamela Smith to the New Hampshire House Election Law Committee on January 21, 2014.

No voting system is perfect. Nearly all elections in New Hampshire, as in most of the nation, are counted using electronic vote counting systems. Such systems have produced result-changing errors through problems with hardware, software and procedures. Error can also occur when compiling results. Even serious error can go undetected if results are not audited effectively.

In a municipal election in Palm Beach County, Florida in 2012 a “synchronization” problem with the election management software allotted votes to both the wrong candidate and the wrong contest; this was uncovered during a post-election audit. The results were officially changed after a public hand count of the votes.1 Particularly noteworthy about that example is the fact that Florida has one of the nation’s weakest audit provisions; even so, it enabled the discovery of this critical error. In another state, a software malfunction caused thousands of votes to be added to the total. A manual audit revealed the mistake and officials were able to correct the results and avoid a costly run-off election.2 In a Republican primary in Iowa, a manual check of the physical ballots revealed a programming error that was attributing votes to the wrong candidates. Thanks to the manual audit, the correct person was seated in office.3


These are examples of issues uncovered by and resolved because of audits. With any such example of malfunction or error that can cause the wrong outcome to be reported, regular audits help find and correct for those errors. This is because the voter-verified paper ballot is the record of the voter’s intent, and by reviewing some subset of those ballots and comparing the physical ballots with the machine reported totals, the will of the voters can be accurately construed without relying exclusively on the ability of sometimes fallible equipment to interpret that intent. The purpose of the paper ballot is two-fold: to enable voters to check that their votes were marked correctly, and to serve as a tool to election officials to demonstrate that all the votes were counted accurately.

For full testimony see: