Philly election officials trained on new method to audit results

Hadas Kuznits
November 21, 2019 - 1:43 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Election officials were trained Thursday afternoon in using an election security measure new to most of the country. They used a test program to learn how to check election results. 

The procedure, a risk-limiting audit, uses Philadelphia's new paper-based system to detect possible interference, said Monica Childers with the nonprofit Voting Works.

"It's a pilot, which is a process that we use to check that the winner actually won in an election," Childers explained. "We're taking a random sample of the original paper ballots from the election and looking at them, marking the votes we see down on tally sheets, tallying those votes, and then checking to see that the margin on our audited sample of ballots matches what we would expect to see if our outcome was correct."

She says the audit is designed to be an efficient process so that it can be done regularly after every election.

"Unlike something like a recount," she said, "which tends to be a much more involved process that you only want to do if there are real questions or a really small margin that you want to check."

Childers said the Philadelphia election officials and auditors trained in the pilot process are the ones "who are actually retrieving the ballots from storage, finding the right ballots in the stack of ballots and looking at the ballots to see the votes marked on it."

Deputy City Commissioner Nick Custodio says Pennsylvania currently checks ballots with what's known as a 2% audit, but this method is much more accurate and efficient.

"The 2% audit is essentially just re-reading 2% of the cartridges, so they have to go through and hand-count 2,000 ballots. Our staff has been doing that the last couple of days, but now they'll be doing that but in much less time, because the process is more scientifically precise, the sample size is smaller."

Childers says the hope is that, eventually, every state will mandate a risk-limiting audit after every election.

"States all across the country are working up to that. Colorado's currently the only state in the country that does this regularly after the election."