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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Guest Blog: An Updated Voting Machine Audit Provision (SB179)

This is a Guest Blog submitted by Paul Stokes of United Voters of NM and Verified Voting NM, which were instrumental in gaining passage of last year's legislation that mandated the use of paper ballot voting systems in all NM counties:

An evaluation presented to the Election Reform Task Force of 2005 of the audit provision in the New Mexico Election Code revealed ambiguities and substantive issues that need to be addressed. In addition, changes are needed to make the audit compatible with our new paper ballot voting systems.

We have, therefore, developed a new audit provision to address these needs, and while we were at it, we developed a new audit concept that is just now gaining currency in the election integrity community. The essence of the concept is to randomly select a sample of voting machines in such a way that the size of the sample would assure that, if faulty machines existed, there would be a high probability (e.g., 90%) that at least one faulty machine would be in the sample. The sample size would be dependent on the margin between the winner and the loser - the larger the margin, the smaller the sample size needed to catch faulty voting machines that could change the winner.

If no errors are found in the sample, the winning candidate is selected based on the voting machine counts. If errors are found, then an election commission decides whether the magnitude of the errors is such that the election result might be reversed. If so, further sampling or a full recount would be called for, depending on the details of the errors. If the election commission decides that it would unlikely for the election to be reversed, no further recounting would occur, and the winner would be declared based on the original results, as corrected for errors found in the sample that was recounted.

Some features of audit provision are:

- It will cover votes cast by absentee ballots, at early voting sites, and during election day in a uniform way.

- Offices covered are the governor or president (whichever is on the ballot), the statewide office for which the winning margin is smallest, and the federal office for which the winning margin is smallest.

- An election commission will be formed consisting of the director of the bureau of elections, the attorney general or designee, the state auditor or designee, and three public members, one of whom is an expert in statistics and two of whom represent different nonpartisan voter information/education organizations.

- The election commission is responsible for establishing the rules for carrying out the audit, for overseeing the audit, and establishing standards and procedures for the audit.

This audit provision was selected by United Voters of New Mexico and Verified Voting New Mexico as one of their priorities for the 2007 Legislature. It was presented to the interim legislative committee on Courts, Corrections, and Justice, and was approved for the 2007 Legislature. Senator McSorley introduced legislation embodying the audit provision as Senate Bill 179. Representative Stewart has offered to carry the bill in the House.

You can help get this audit provision passed by writing your legislators, Senator McSorley, and Representative Stewart, and by attending Legislature committee sessions where the bill is being heard. Visit the NM Legislature website for contact information, bill tracking, etc.

Thanks, Paul Stokes

Editor's Note: This is a Guest Blog by Paul Stokes of Albuquerque. If you'd like to submit a post for consideration as a Guest Blog, please contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of our main page.

January 30, 2007 at 08:46 AM in Election Reform & Voting, Guest Blogger, NM Legislature 2007 | Permalink


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