— By Taylor Cooper, The Brunswick News, September 2, 2020 —
Glynn County’s Board of Elections helped the state test a new election-security tool Tuesday.
Tuesday’s trial of the process, called risk-limited auditing, was conducted by VotingWorks, a nonprofit dedicated to making elections simple and secure.
In essence, an audit looks at a statistically significant sampling of ballots to see if anything went wrong during an election, said Monica Childers, project manager at VotingWorks. Because samplings would, in a real-world audit, be taken from across the state, errors could be traced back to the source and fixed before the next election.
Importantly, the review panels check printed ballots against the machine-recorded results. By doing so, the process serves as a check on ballot scanners.
“It all works off what a voter is able to verify,” she explained.
This is all done with a mind toward giving voters confidence in the election system, Childers said. A risk-limited audit is not a full recount, but checking a specific number of ballots can ensure a certain percentage of accuracy.
For example, she said Colorado performs audits at a 4 percent margin, meaning an audit would catch 96 percent of errors. For most races, the difference between winner and loser is wide enough for that alone to be adequate. For others, a full recount may still be necessary to verify the results.
Public trust and transparency are the most important goals of the project, Childers said.
Trials have been conducted since the 2019 municipal election after the Georgia legislature opted to overhaul the state’s election laws and purchase new voting machines, she explained.
Risk-limiting audits come in three forms — ballot comparison, ballot polling and batch comparison. Ballot comparison, by and large, offers accurate results with a smaller sample size than the other two, Childers said.
“I like to talk about it like ice cream flavors,” Childers said. “There’s rocky road, vanilla, mint. The flavor we’re using is ballot comparison.”
Officials with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office said the state has not committed to adopting any of the auditing methods it has attempted so far.