[Election-Methods] Release: How Easy is it to Audit Elections with 95% Confidence-level?

Kathy Dopp kathy.dopp at gmail.com
Sat Dec 22 16:38:01 PST 2007



The National Election Data Archive
Park City, UT
December 22, 2007

A new analysis using Utah's 2004 General Election results, finds that
obtaining 95% confidence-level in election outcomes only requires
auditing a reasonable 5.5% of all precinct races overall.

The National Election Data Archive has created a Powerpoint
presentation showing simply  "How to Determine Initial Sample Size for
95% Confidence-Level Vote Count Audits"

Mandatory Post-Election Vote Count Audits

and a smaller pdf version of the powerpoint presentation:

Counting overall 5.5% of Utah's precinct-race counts using this method
achieves a higher confidence-level (95%) at lower cost than any flat
manual election audit such as 10% audit Connecticut uses.

Utah's overall audit rates for the 2004 general election are:

For all federal and state races audited - 5.5% of precincts

*	Federal & Statewide Races total precincts audited - average 3% of precincts

*	State Senate Races total precincts audited - average 11.2% of precincts

*	State House Races total precincts audited - average 30.9% of precincts

The minimum required audit rate for a race is 1.5% and maximum audit
rate is 100% for one close Utah State House race.  Audit amounts will
vary state by state depending on the number of close races and how
many vote counts there are in each race.

Typically a larger overall percentage of precincts must be audited,
but not a larger "amount" of precincts, for races with fewer total
number of precincts.  The last slide in NEDA's powerpoint presentation
explains why a flat percentage audit of precincts (or other vote
counts) - the approach adopted by most states currently - is
mathematically incorrect.

A general rule of thumb for that can be applied without using any
fancy mathematics, was suggested by M.I.T. Professor Ronald Rivest: An
estimate the audit sample size for any race can be obtained by
dividing one (1) by the margin (in percentage of ballots) between the
winning candidate with the least number of votes and the runnerup (the
losing candidate with the most votes).  This easy calculation
(1/margin%) is not precisely accurate but provides a confidence-level
of somewhere between 70% to 100%.  Eg. if the margin is 1%, then
manually audit 1/0.01 = 100 vote counts; and if the margin is 50%,
then manually audit 1/0.50 = 2 vote counts.  More precise methods to
determine vote count audit sample sizes are described in the National
Election Data Archive's powerpoint presentation.

The powerpoint presentation also includes a description of a new
method by Aslam, Popa, and Rivest for weighting random selection of
precincts by the amount of possible error that the precinct could
contribute to the margin between the winning and losing candidates.

NEDA is also releasing a spreadsheet to make it easy to see how to
calculate vote count audit sample sizes using unofficial election


After developing legislative language for election auditing since
January 2008 in consultation with various experts, the National
Election Data Archive finalized a legislative model for election

Legislative Text Requiring 95% Confidence-Level Election Audits.

The National Election Data Archive recommends combining its bill text with a


Currently no state yet subjects its election results to scientific
independent election audits.

The 95% confidence-level vote count audit legislation proposed:

1. uses a flexible definition for "vote counts" so that precincts,
machine counts, batch counts or even individual ballots can be the
unit audited - depending on the capabilities of the voting systems
(most are not auditable on the ballot level currently).

2. uses scientific definitions for "random selection" and
"confidence-level" to flexibly permit any valid auditing procedure
that will assure that at most 5% of incorrect election outcomes would
be certified (since we expect far fewer than 100% of outcomes to be
incorrect, this assures that well more than 95% of election outcomes
are correct)

3. specifies procedures ensuring that audits cannot be manipulated or overcome

4. specifies specific responsibilities for auditors and election
officials, and establishes an expert State "Election Audit and Recount
Committee" that is appointed by expert department chairs of math,
computer science, and political science departments

5. specifies publicly observable manual counts and random selections


The Utah Voter Magazine of the League of Women Voters - Utah printed a
long article I wrote about the

Ten Precepts of Election Administration,
The State of Utah's Voting, Technology, and Legislative Requests for
Changing Utah Election Law


With thanks to Douglas Kellner and Doug Jones.

Pages 13 to 15.

There is one small correction to the article.  There are only 7 states
so far which have implemented Election Day voter registration, not 22


Funds are urgently needed immediately by the National Election Data
Archive in order to continue its legal effort to establish a federal
right to public oversight over the electoral process.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) does not provide public access
to election records, even in federal elections because FOIA only
applies to records owned by the federal government. Election records
are owned by local state, county, and townships.  A public right to
access election records for all federal elections must be established
if there is to be public oversight over the electoral process.

Since June 2006, the National Election Data Archive has brought the
only case to federal court that is currently suing a state in order to
establish a federal right to public access to election records.

Even with scientific vote count audits, if there is no public access
to view election records, then the public cannot verify the integrity
of elections.  It took the National Election Data Archive 1.5 years to
bring its public access to election records case into federal court.
We have spent $5,000 on the case so far, but are virtually out of
funds and may need as much as $20,000 more, or  alternatively pro-bono
or contingency attorneys to finish the case.

PLEASE help us financially or we will have to drop this crucially
important legal case within a few weeks.

There is no other case currently in federal court that is poised to
establish a nation-wide right to public access to election records
(and hence public oversight over elections).  There is also no federal
legislation proposed currently in Congress to establish a federal
right to public access to election records.

If we have to drop this federal court case now due to lack of funds
and legal help, it could take another two years to bring another
similar legal case to this point.  This is crucial and without your
help our federal legal suit to establish a federal right to election
oversight and access to records will be dropped.  Here is our current
legal filing with the court:


Our legal case is ideally suited to establish a federal right to
public access to election records because:

Utah current election statute is possibly the most secretive with
respect to public access to election records of any State currently.
Clearly Utah law violates of federal statute such as the National
Voter Registration Act which requires public access to voter
registration records.

Utah current election statute is clearly unworkable because it is
being violated during every election by Utah's own election officials
in order to perform their jobs of tallying votes.

Prior federal case law has established that the right to vote includes
the right to have that vote accurately counted, and this right to have
votes accurately counted cannot be verifiably assured without the
right to "know" that votes are accurately counted, and this knowledge
cannot be established without a public right to access election

To establish a federal right to public access to election records only
requires winning that right in one federal case in one state. The
right to public oversight over elections via public access to election
records can be won here in Utah for the entire nation, but only if we
have funding and legal resources to continue the case that we have
spent almost two years getting to federal court.

Here is how you can donate to help fight for a federal right to public
oversight over elections, and finish the mountain of work that is
still required to make it possible for U.S. elections to become
verifiably transparently accurate.

Please donate now. We need to raise at least a few thousand dollars
immediately, and perhaps as much as $20,000 to cover all costs for
this federal court case to establish a public right to access election
records for the entire nation.

In Pima County, AZ, the Arizona court recently decided that the
plaintiffs had a right to obtain and examine copies of the
Diebold/Premier's GEMS server vote count database.  Following the 2004
election, an AK court decided that the Alaska Democratic Party had a
right to obtain copies of the Diebold GEMS server vote count database.
Unfortunately neither of these cases establishes a nation-wide right
for public access to similar election records. We need funding NOW to
continue the only federal court case that is positioned to achieve
this right for the entire nation.

Without a public right to access election records, there can be no
public oversight over elections. It is urgent that we obtain funds now
or we will be forced to drop this particular effort.

There have been "no" responses to my prior two pleas for funding for
this crucial lawsuit. Please donate now:


or mail a check to:
US Count Votes
P.O. Box 682556
Park City, UT 84068

If you want US Count Votes to continue our legal effort to establish a
federal right to public access to election records, please donate
something now.  Thank you.

There is also a lot of work remaining to explain the procedures for
evaluating election auditing discrepancy results in order to make
valid decisions for whether to certify an election or increase the
audit sample.

We need your help to get that done in a timely fashion.


A full-time (4 day/week) volunteer position is open in Park City, UT.
Possible college credit can be obtained from your college or this
could turn into a paid position for someone who can successfully
organize fund-raising events.

Thank you.

Press Contact
Kathy Dopp,
Executive Director, National Election Data Archive


Kathy Dopp

The material expressed herein is the informed  product of the author
Kathy Dopp's fact-finding and investigative efforts. Dopp is a
Mathematician, Expert in election audit mathematics and procedures; in
exit poll discrepancy analysis; and can be reached at

P.O. Box 680192
Park City, UT 84068
phone 435-658-4657


History of Confidence Election Auditing Development & Overview of
Election Auditing Fundamentals

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