Secretary Benson continues post-election audit pilot program

DECEMBER 3, 2019

December audits will verify Nov. 5 election results for Rochester Hills, Kalamazoo, Lansing, St. Joseph County

The Department of State’s Bureau of Elections is once again partnering with local election officials and national experts on risk-limiting audits to verify the results of the Nov. 5 local elections.
 
“With the expansion of our RLA pilot program, Michiganders can have more confidence than ever before that their votes are securely counted,” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said. “I am proud to work with so many of our local clerks to ensure this important protection for our voters.”
 
The Bureau of Elections will work with staff of Voting Works and the Brennan Center for Justice, as well as the following clerks: St. Joseph County Clerk Lindsay Oswald; Kalamazoo County Clerk Tim Snow; Kalamazoo City Clerk Scott Borling; Rochester Hills City Clerk Tina Barton; and Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope.
 
The audits are open to the public at the following locations:

• 9 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 5 – St. Joseph Intermediate School District election (includes St. Joseph County and small portions of Kalamazoo, Cass and Branch counties) – St. Joseph County Intermediate School District – 62445 Shimmel Road, Centreville.

• 9 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 5– Kalamazoo RESA and City of Kalamazoo mayoral election (Kalamazoo County and small portions of Barry, Calhoun and St. Joseph counties) Oshtemo Township Hall – 7275 W. Main St., Kalamazoo.

• 9 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 19 – City of Rochester Hills election, Rochester Hills City Hall, 1000 Rochester Hills Drive, Rochester Hills.

• 1 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 19 – City of Lansing election, Lansing Elections Unit, 2500 S. Washington Ave., Lansing.

Michigan’s election system already incorporates many important recommendations of national security and cybersecurity experts, including the use of paper ballots, mandatory pre-election testing on voting equipment and performance-based audits to verify completion of election tasks.
 
Risk-limiting audits have emerged nationally as the preeminent method for confirming election results. They use statistical methods to perform a comprehensive check on the accuracy of reported election results and to detect anomalies, possibly tied to human error or manipulation. Using a mathematical formula, auditors in each locality will randomly select ballots to confirm that the ballot tabulators correctly tallied election results.
 
The method first was implemented by the state of Colorado, where elections are run at the county level and the vast majority of voting occurs by mail. Michigan is exploring ways to adapt these audits to its own highly decentralized elections structure, in which 1,520 city and township clerks administer both in-person and by-mail voting in more than 4,800 individual precincts, with county clerks also playing a role in canvassing election results.
 
Michigan began working last year with national experts to study and define risk-limiting audit methodology for states with individual precincts. Michigan first conducted pilot audits after the November 2018 midterm election in the cities of Kalamazoo, Lansing and Rochester Hills. Further pilots were conducted after the May and August 2019 elections. The Brennan Center noted that the results of early pilots showed that “risk-limiting audits are an effective tool that can be implemented in Michigan, by Michigan election officials, using Michigan-certified voting systems.” The report can be found here.
 
The goal of these expanded pilots is to continue development of an overall audit model for Michigan that will work for local elections, as well as a full statewide audit of election results.
 

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