Thursday, November 06, 2008

Answers to Audit questions

On Thu, Nov 06, 2008 at 10:36:46AM -0700, Al Kolwicz wrote:
> Neal,
> Does the group's audit procedure provide the facts needed to answer"

A good audit according to the Principles from the auditing experts would give good answers to those questions.

> 1. How accurate is "mis-interpreted vote detection" by the machine audit procedure that "the group" has developed?

First, the procedure is not a "machine audit", but rather an audit of voter-verfied paper records and how various parts of the whole system interpreted them.

The benefits of audits include:

* Revealing when recounts are necessary to verify election outcomes
* Finding error whether accidental or intentional
* Deterring fraud
* Providing for continuous improvement in the conduct of elections
* Promoting public confidence in elections

The details of even defining a mis-interpreted vote depend on state laws, so as always in the US, local conditions will be important.

> 2. Does the percentage of mis-interpreted votes, in one or more audited contests, extend to the non-audited contests?

If you don't audit a particular contest, your information will of course be limited and it would be hard to say. But of course you'd have a lot more information than if you don't do a good audit of at least some contests, and very few jurisdictions do good audits now.

> 3. How about the non-audited machines?

In a proper audit, all ballots would be eligible for selection, and thus all machines and other elements of the election tallying process would in some sense be "audited".

A proper audit will give good statistics about ballots that weren't chosen for hand-counting and the performance of associated machines for the contest in question. The level of confidence chosen is of course important here. And note that it is often best to focus most on detecting mistakes in tight races, which would mean that smaller levels of misinterpretation in races with a wide margin wouldn't be picked up.

> 4. Does "the group's" machine audit procedure have the ability to project the total number of misinterpreted votes?

Note we have "principles", not yet detailed, specific recommended procedures.

The procedures designed by Philip Stark do a great job of determining when problems found indicate need for an escallation by doing that sort of projection.

He has a nice page of good auditing references:

> 5. How about the number of mis-interpreted votes that occurred in undervoted contests?

Sure - all categories of vote interpretation must be audited.

> Thanks for work that you are doing.

My pleasure! A good canvass with tracking of ballots is also of course critical to a good audit, so your work there is also important.

Neal McBurnett

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