ELECTORAL SECURITY: local elected officials would like a post-election audit

Bartholomew County election officials said they would welcome a post-election audit as Indiana’s secretary of state launches plans to double the number of audits conducted this year.

Earlier this month, Indiana’s office of the secretary of state announced the start of post-election audits for the 2022 election cycle, with the first audit beginning June 6 in Fulton County. At least 12 more counties will be audited this year, state officials said.

It’s unclear if Bartholomew County will be selected this year, Bartholomew County Clerk Shari Lentz said. State officials said additional counties will be announced as audits are scheduled.

If chosen, it would not be the first time Bartholomew County election results have been audited, Lentz said. The county’s election results were audited following the 2020 primary, which Lentz described as “very successful, adding that auditors” were “pretty happy with the results.”

“If our county is selected again, it will be another great opportunity to secure voter confidence and provide voters with transparency in the voting process,” Lentz said.

How Audits Work

Essentially, post-election audits, formerly known as “risk mitigation” audits, are carried out by selecting a random sample of paper ballots and comparing them to the tally originally compiled on election night, a said Lentz.

During an audit, sampled ballots are counted by hand to determine if the initial machine readings are confirmed and accurate, according to the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office.

State officials say the audits offer “strong statistical evidence” that the election results are correct “with a high degree of statistical confidence.”

In Bartholomew County, VVPAT tapes are the paper records that would be sampled in the event of an audit. VVPATs, or Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails, are independent verification systems added to electronic voting machines that print and store hard copies of electronic voting records to protect against possible voter fraud and system malfunctions. voting machines.

Voters in Columbus tried the system as part of a pilot program during the 2019 municipal elections. The following year, Bartholomew County became the first location in the nation to use VVPATs on all of its electronic voting machines. , Lentz said.

Audits are different from recounts, which are done following a close race, officials said. Recounts in Indiana involving electronic voting machines are conducted by reprinting the vote tallies on the machines and comparing them to the number of signatures in the poll books. In addition, all mailed paper ballots are recounted by hand.

VVPAT tapes are not currently used for recounts, Lentz said.

The last recount in Bartholomew County came in 2019, when Republican incumbent Dascal Bunch lost to Democratic challenger Jerone Wood by one vote in the Columbus City Council District 1 race. The recount confirmed Wood’s one-vote victory and cemented the first Democratic majority on the City Council since 1983.

In Indiana, post-election audits are being conducted in partnership with the Voting System Technical Oversight Program, or VSTOP, at Ball State University in Muncie, state officials said.

New rules

The update from local election officials comes as county clerks from across the state gathered this week at a conference in Indianapolis to discuss, among other things, a host of new election laws that are expected to come into effect. force in Indiana.

Lentz, who attended the conference, said state officials provided several updates on new legislation that will go into effect next month, though not all of the new rules will have a big impact on Bartholomew County.

Lentz said the biggest statewide change is the requirement that counties using direct-recording electronic voting machines — including Bartholomew County — equip at least 10% of them with VVPAT in time for the general election in November. However, this requirement “doesn’t affect our country as much” because VVPATs are already in use on all voting machines in Bartholomew County.

Another change that comes into effect July 1 involves new requirements for mailing mail-in ballot requests to other people, a practice political parties engage in.

The changes concern the disclaimer on the application envelope, which will now have to indicate, in 16-point underlined type, the name of the person submitting the application, as well as: “This is unsolicited and is not sent by a state or local election official.

“We sometimes have trouble with that,” Lentz said. “Someone will call our office and ask for a mail-in ballot request, we send it to him, and then a day or two later he gets one from a (political party). It can sometimes be confusing why he is getting multiple.