Post-Election Auditing Summit

I’m continuing my tradition of posting about conferences that I have not attended…

The Post-Election Auditing Summit was held in Minneapolis October 25-27, 2007.

Some coverage:

  • Verified Voting wrote:

    As one of six co-sponsoring organizations, Verified Voting Foundation is very pleased to announce that the Post-Election Auditing Summit held October 25-27, 2007 was a success that surpassed the considerable hopes of the team that put it together. … At present, while some three-fourths of the states have passed requirements for voter-verified paper ballots — or obtained voter-verified paper ballot systems even without a requirement to do so — only about one fourth of all states are doing any audits at all. Yet audits provide an essential safety check by allowing vote counts to be publicly validated.

    An emerging theme was our mutual need to educate one another and election officials, the media, and the public that we should expect audits to uncover some problems — as auditing does in every other field where it is done seriously and professionally. But far from having discovery of variances result in lowered public trust, attendees felt such discovery can ultimately increase that trust, if we can demonstrate that identifying and understanding problems helps improve the election process over time. A related theme that resonated with many Summit participants was the need to think less in terms of blame when problems arise and instead shift toward how to improve the over-all election system–working toward a culture of mutual problem-solving in election administration.

    Does your state have an audit provision already, or an audit bill pending? Please let us know if it is not on our list at so that we can update our information.

  • Joseph Hall’s excellent panel-by-panel summary (post #1 and post #2):

    Mary Batcher talked about the VVSG II and the notion of software independence (that election software should not be a critical component that, if it fails, can threaten the results of an election).

    Debra Bowen gave this morning’s keynote talking about the interaction between this summer’s Top-To-Bottom Review and her Post Election Audit Standards Working Group. She went as far as to say, “My ultimate goal is to move California to an adjustible sample model.” She repeated her assertion that she rejects the notion that we should not make changes to our voting system because we’ve already made certain purchasing decisions. She said, no matter what we end up doing, we need to have meaningful post election audits. We need to have cooperation between every constituency involved.

    Pam Smith (Verified Voting Foundation) spent her time talking about transparency and one theme that has come up: “What good is transparency if no one is there to watch?” This is similar to the Zen tree falling koan (“Does a tree make a sound if no one is there when it falls?”). This was an interesting theme throughout the conference in that election officials said that it doesn’t make sense to place all these increased audit burdens and public observation requirements (transparency) if no one shows up. I need to think about this a bit more… but Pam had a good way of putting in perspective, “The converse of that complaint is what if someone really wants the opportunity to observe but they can’t. They need to have the opportunity.”


2 responses to “Post-Election Auditing Summit

  1. Pingback: Kathy Dopp and the MN Post Election Audit Summit « All About Voting

  2. Howard Stanislevic has a post with some video of his talk and Arlene Ash’s talk:

    As I see it, the point of this little shindig was to explain to some of the (mostly friendly) powers that be that:

    1. It’s not them we don’t trust — it’s the software!
    2. We can deal with this mistrust by not relying too heavily on the software.
    3. We can show them how to do this, to the advantage of all stakeholders by using statistically accurate fair and efficient post-election audits, especially if they’re conducted “on the ground” rather than up at the “summit.”

    (For my part, I disagree with #1. A verifiable system ought to be somewhat robust against elections being conducted by untrustworthy people. There are many cases of the people conducting elections having partisan stakes in the outcomes.)

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