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Media Release: To Enhance Election Security, Rhode Island Tests A New Way to Verify Election Results

Aurora Matthews, New Heights Communications, aurora@newheightscommunications.com, (301)221-7984

PROVIDENCE, RI – Rhode Island is making good on its promise to road-test risk-limiting election audits, following 2017 passage of legislation by the Rhode Island General Assembly, requiring them. Beginning with the presidential primary in April 2020, Rhode Island will become the second state to require these audits to verify election results. A “risk limiting” audit checks if the election result is correct. Specifically it checks the counting of the votes. A “risk-limiting” audit limits the risk that the wrong election result will be certified. It can catch errors which change the result and correct a wrong result.

For more background on the legislation, visit here: https://www.commoncause.org/democracy-wire/rhode-island-adopts-risk-limiting-election-audits/ and here: http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText17/HouseText17/H5704.pdf

To prepare for next year’s full implementation, the Rhode Island Board of Elections will conduct three pilot audits on January 16 and 17 at 50 Branch Avenue in Providence, Rhode Island beginning at 9:30 a.m. These pilot audits will be conducted with local election officials from Bristol, Cranston and Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

The purpose is to test three different methods for conducting risk-limiting audits. A variety of tasks will be conducted over two days, including hand tabulation of a sample of ballots. For purposes of planning future audits a time and measurement study will be conducted over the two days.

Rhode Island will demonstrate three types of audits:

  • Ballot-level comparison audit for Bristol precincts: This method A ballot-level comparison audit is an audit that is similar to checking an expense report. First the audit checks that the subtotals add up to the reported totals. And then individual ballots are checked against how they are recorded by the machine – similar to checking receipts against numbers in a spreadsheet.
  • Batch-level comparison audit for Cranston precincts: This method will check a random sample of ballot “batches” and compare the total vote count of those batches against the voting machine’s count. A batch will consist of between 250-300 ballots.
  • Ballot-level polling audit for Portsmouth precincts: This method will check a random sample of ballots with the reported outcome, not against the voting machine’s record of those votes. This is comparable to an exit poll. But instead of using the voters’ responses to questions, it checks marking of the actual ballots. Enough ballots are sampled to give election officials confidence that the outcome is correct.

“We strongly support the Rhode Island Board of Election’s piloting risk-limiting audits as they prepare for full implementation of our law in 2020. Given recent threats to US cybersecurity, risk-limiting audits help conduct accurate, fair elections, strengthening voter confidence in election results,” said John Marion, Executive Director of Common Cause Rhode Island. “We hope many other US states will follow Rhode Island’s example,” he added

“Rhode Island’s Board of Elections’ risk-limiting audit pilot is a critical step toward safeguarding our elections. Paper ballots, marked by hand or device, are the essential ingredient for ensuring that jurisdictions can recover from errors or tampering. Paper ballots coupled with routine risk-limiting audits are the best way to detect whether the software reported the election results accurately,” said Marian K. Schneider, president of Verified Voting.

“Rhode Island is helping lead the nation toward the future of election administration and election security by piloting risk-limiting audits,” said Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “They are the gold-standard in post-election checks, and implementing them across the country is essential to catching problems with vote tallies and ensuring voter confidence. The pilots offer a great learning opportunity for officials and advocates alike, and they will help improve RLA processes as these audits become more widespread.”

Kansas: Judge: Wichita State statistician can’t have tapes to audit voting machines | The Wichita Eagle

A Sedgwick County judge has ruled that a Wichita State University statistician won’t get access to paper tapes from voting machines to search for fraud or mistakes. Judge Tim Lahey denied a motion by Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman to dismiss the case brought by statistician Beth Clarkson. But that was a hollow victory for Clarkson. Her point in filing the lawsuit was to gain access to the tapes to check the accuracy of the voting machines, searching for an answer to statistical anomalies she has found in election results. The paper tapes at issue are printed by the voting machines as each voter casts a ballot. The voter can view the tape through a plastic window in the machine to verify their choices before hitting a button that records their votes. Clarkson sued last year seeking access to the tapes under the Kansas Open Records Act. Representing herself without a lawyer, she lost. Read More

New Hampshire: Is an automated vote count good enough? State, parties to petition disagree | The Keene Sentinel

Not all debates have clearly drawn lines. In the matter of assuring an accurate vote count in citizen elections, the end goal is unequivocal. But the views of how this is achieved can — and in this region and in the state do — vary. Despite hopes to the contrary of 60 petitioners calling for mandatory but limited hand-count audits of votes in Keene immediately following elections, neither the city nor the Secretary of State’s Office can authorize such a thing, according to officials with the office. Only the state Legislature can, officials say — and it has failed to do so at least twice. The Keene City Council in September accepted a petition put forward by Gerhard F. Bedding, Cheshire County Commissioner Charles F. “Chuck” Weed, D-Keene, and others as informational, a move that requires no action. Read More

Afghanistan: Rival Afghan Presidential Candidates Sign Deal to Share Power | VoA News

Afghan presidential rivals Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah on Sunday signed a power sharing deal to form a National Unity Government. The signing ceremony took place at the presidential palace in Kabul with outgoing President Hamid Karzai and Afghan elders as well as religious leaders present on the occasion. The two candidates shook hands and hugged each other after singing the long-awaited political deal. Karzai then briefly addressed the gathering and congratulated both Ghani and Abdullah on reaching the power sharing arrangement. Read More

Afghanistan: Election commission completes audit that determines president | The Guardian

Afghanistan’s election commission announced on Sunday it has completed the audit that will determine the country’s next president. The contested presidential election has seen both presidential hopefuls, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, accusing each other of industrial-scale fraud, fomenting revolt, and endorsing violence. As of Monday, the ballots have been sent to the electoral complaints commission, who will grant Ghani and Abdullah 24 hours to log any complaints they may have. The complaints commission will then have 48 hours to address their complaints and submit the final result to the electoral commission for review. The electoral commission is expected to announce the final results by the end of the week. If similar announcements in the past are any guide, however, this will likely be delayed. The first round of votes on 5 April was noticeable for its relative absence of violence, and the country underwent a brief spell of optimism. The second round of election on 14 June was a departure from this original feeling of euphoria, and was marred by claims and counter claims of fraud between the two candidates. Read More

Afghanistan: Abdullah Vows to Reject Disputed Vote | New York Times

The presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah once more brought Afghanistan’s troubled electoral process to the brink on Monday, insisting that he had won the disputed vote and vowing to reject any government formed on the basis of it. An audit of 100 percent of the ballots cast in the June runoff election is expected to conclude this week, and nearly all observers expect Mr. Abdullah’s opponent, Ashraf Ghani, to be declared the winner. Mr. Abdullah’s supporters have been suggesting that he form a parallel government, which Western diplomats have worried could lead to disorder or even civil war. But Mr. Abdullah made no mention of a parallel government in a speech to his top officials, running mates and supporters, or at a brief news conference afterward, and did not ask his supporters to take to the streets to protest the results. Read More

Afghanistan: Election front-runner rejects equal share of power with rival | Reuters

“The best solution for the current situation is the announcement of final results. The international community has shown readiness to support the results,” Ghani said. Ghani was declared the winner in preliminary results from the June 14 run-off ballot with 56 percent of the vote, giving him a lead of some 1.2 million votes. But his rival, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, charged that massive fraud of more than two million votes had denied him victory, and on Monday he said he would reject the outcome if the audit did not throw out enough ballots to make him president. The United States brokered a deal between the feuding parties to form a unity government that would include the new position of chief executive, who would enjoy significant powers despite losing the election. The aim of the deal was to prevent the dispute from descending into street demonstrations and possible ethnic conflict. Read More

Editorials: In Afghanistan, Time for Compromise | New York Times

Having spent several weeks auditing ballots in Afghanistan’s fraud-plagued presidential vote, election officials there are expected to declare a winner within days. If the two candidates vying for the post fail to reach a power-sharing deal beforehand, the announcement could easily kick off a wave of unrest that would all but guarantee a catastrophic wind-down to America’s longest war. The window of opportunity to strike a compromise is narrowing dangerously. Without a new government in place, the Obama administration may well pull back on plans to keep a military contingent in Afghanistan beyond 2014, and without that force, the international community will cease bankrolling the impoverished nation. Abdullah Abdullah, the former foreign minister, not without reason, is fighting the outcome of an election in which his rival, former finance minister Ashraf Ghani, is widely expected to be declared the winner. Western officials say that the audit of millions of ballots cast on June 14 has made clear that the scope and sophistication of fraud was staggering even for Afghan standards. Read More

Afghanistan: Abdullah threatens to back out of Afghanistan election | Los Angeles Times

The campaign team of Abdullah Abdullah, the former foreign minister running against Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai for the presidency of Afghanistan, has issued a 24-hour notice to the United Nations and international observers that if changes are not made to processes in the ongoing audit of all 8 million votes cast in the second round of the election, they will back out of the election process entirely. “We will give one day to the international community to review and assure that the vote auditing and the political negotiations are moving forward properly. … If our demands are not met and the auditing not conducted legitimately and the political talks without honesty, then we will withdraw from both processes,” said Abdullah spokesman Syed Fazel Sancharaki. nThe Monday afternoon warning came a week after the team of Reform and Partnership, as Abdullah’s campaign refers to itself, backed out of the audit claiming their concerns about widespread fraud in the June 14 runoff were ignored by the United Nations. Read More

Afghanistan: Elections Dilemma: Finish before it finishes you | Khaama Press

Afghan elections, as once considered a landmark in the history of Afghanistan, turns into elections impasse. U.S.A had meticulously predicted today’s scenario – elections goes to second round, which will be marred by claims of fraud and the final announcement might take six months- when she was pushing president Hamid Karzai to sign bilateral security agreement. We are more than half done and desperately moving to bleak and gloomy future in the rest of two months, if the dilemma is going to be finished or it finishes us in exactly six months. During the election impasse, we witnessed many breakings news saying: counting/auditing process stops and resumes. People weary of such narrative. We have been hearing many coded words and expressions from both runners, which are interpreted in different ways. It is hard for those who are part of neither side to understand where the Pandora box is. And both parties are not totally honest vis-à-vis Afghans, for whom the Two were begging to vote in each one’s favor. A very superficial understanding is they have yet to reach power-sharing deal, and issues like fraud and complaints are nothing but sheer pretexts. Read More