Audits of Vote-By-Mail Ballots in Whatcom County (Proposed)
Detailed Procedure We Propose - June 2005

(before all-vote-by-Mail began.)
See additional discussion and background:

Goals of the audit activity:
  • Establish preventative conditions to deter attempts at fraud or other shenanigans.
  • Prove the validity of the published results. Catch any differences between machine-count and hand-count, so they may be investigated and resolved before the election is certified.
  • Enhance public confidence in the election system.
Recommended Whatcom Audit procedure:

(Some details yet to be quantified, shown in parentheses with "?")
  1. The Whatcom County precincts to be subject to such first round of audits shall be no less than ____ (5% ? = six) and no more than _____ (7.5% ? = nine). The same number of precincts will be selected at the same time in anticipation of a second round of audits, if such comes to be needed.
  2. The races to be audited will be ___ (two?), selected from the several "senior" positions, at least county-wide, including President, US Senator, US Rep, Governor, State Senator, State Rep, Judges, Executive of the County, etc., and one or two major ballot issues, at least County-wide. The selection of the races will also be done by publicly, randomly, selecting them.
  3. A method of publicly and randomly selecting precincts and races to be audited will be established and followed. Picking from a "hat" or a transparent bowl, in public sight, is a good way.
  4. The random selection will be done and announced after the closing of the polls and before the completion of the first total results -- in practice, between 8:PM and 9:PM on election night.
  5. The hand counting of the paper ballots will be done starting no sooner than the day after the election, and completed before the final results are certified. A likely day to begin the audit count is the Tuesday one week after the election.
  6. The ballots of the precincts to be audited will be sorted and assembled for counting in a secure method. (Note: In Whatcom County, this is already customary with the punch-card ballots.)
  7. The hand counting will be done by Elections staff, under the watchfulness of citizen observers representing "competing interests" - major and minor political parties and proponents and opponents of ballot measures. This is consistent with current hand recounts practice.
  8. The allowable margin of error in any precinct for any race shall be a difference of ____ (one? - two? - three?) votes.
  9. The results of the hand counts and the machine counts of the selected precincts and races will be attested by the staff and the observers, and published at least _____ (one? two?) days prior to the intended certification of the election.
  10. Election staff and the Auditor will compare the totals and differences by machine and hand count. If the differences in all precincts and all races audited fall within the allowable margin, then certification will proceed. If the differences in any _____ (two?) precincts should exceed the allowable margin, then certification will be suspended, and additional precincts will be hand counted for auditing.
  11. For the second round of hand counting, the equal number of precincts (also randomly pre-selected on election night), and the same races, will be done.
  12. The results of the hand counts and the machine counts of the selected second round of precincts and races will be similarly announced.
  13. If the differences in all additional second round precincts and all races audited fall within the allowable margin, then certification will proceed. If the differences in any two second-round precincts should exceed the allowable margin, then certification will remain suspended, and all precincts (100% of the county) will be hand counted, and the results of the hand count used as the true results for certification.
  14. The public is then likely to express its satisfaction with and trust in the system.
  15. If the errors led to the use of the hand count for certification, then the machine counting system will be decertified by the County, and a thorough investigation conducted to establish the reasons and to determine the actions to take to avoid a repetition. Those could include replacement with the same or different models, and revision of internal procedures within the elections office.


(page presentation edited August 2006)

back to NoLeakyBuckets homepage