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Study: North Carolina only state performing “essential” post-election audits of electronic voting machines

Monday, August 6th, 2007

A recent study from New York University and the University of California at Berkeley declares that states’ efforts to count every vote by producing paper trails for electronic voting machines may be less important than another election reform: performing post-election audits. The report calls the value of having a paper trail a “highly questionable” method of ensuring voting security.

The NYU/UC report applauds North Carolina for being the only state which “has collected and made public the most significant data from post-election audits for the purpose of improving future elections,” and the North Carolina media has taken notice.

Text from the press release announcing the findings, and an interesting chart from the study is after the jump.

Among the report’s key findings:

• Post-election audits of voter-verifiable paper records are a critical tool for detecting ballot-counting errors, discouraging fraud, and improving the security and reliability of electronic voting machines in future elections. Unfortunately, of the thirty-eight states that require or use voter-verifiable paper records throughout the state, twenty-three do not require such audits after every election.

• Of the few states that currently require and conduct post-election audits, none has adopted audit models that will maximize the likelihood of finding clever and targeted software-based attacks, non-systemic programming errors, and software bugs that could change the outcome of an election.

• Only one state, North Carolina, has collected and made public the most significant data from post-election audits for the purpose of improving future elections. Based upon the Brennan Center’s review of state laws and interviews with state election officials, the authors conclude that the vast majority of states conducting audits are not using them in a way that will maximize their ability to improve elections in the future.

• Regardless of the audit model a jurisdiction implements, there are several simple, practical, and inexpensive procedures that it can adopt to achieve the most important post-election auditing goals, without imposing unnecessary burdens on election officials.

The full report is available here. The chart below shows states with recent problems with electronic voting tallies, and the far fewer number of states in which your vote can be verified with a paper record and a post-election audit:

Chart from Post-Election Audits: Restoring Trust in Elections study by The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law.

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