Greene County Tests New Election-Auditing Process

If someone didn’t know what was going on, they might have thought the Greene County Clerk was hosting a giant game of Dungeons and Dragons.

A table at the front of the main room at the Greene County Election Center held over 20 10-sided dice, similar to those used for role playing games. On Thursday, however, those dice were being used to make sure the count of the most recent election in the county were accurate and valid.

Greene County was participating in a new “risk-limiting audit.” Current Missouri law for post-auditing of elections requires an evaluation of “no less” than five percent of locations. The new process allows for a wider range of precincts to be evaluated to get a more accurate review of the ballots.

“The process allows us to go as deep as necessary to determine the accuracy of the system,” Greene County Clerk Shane Scholler told OI. “If we audit at one level and we see something that seem questionable, we can go another level deep with the computer to continue to audit until we determine accuracy or a problem.”

The system involves a computer algorithm that tells which ballots in which precincts to consider for the audit. The dice are used to generate the random number for the computer. Each die is rolled to obtain a number which are then combined to make a 20 digit number, which is used in the computer to generate the ballots to be audited.

Staff with the auditing system told OI this guarantees that no one can know which ballots will be edited ahead of time, and that no one connected with the auditing program can alter or change the process to determine the ballot choice outcome.

“We know machines can have an error,” Schoeller said, “and that’s why we have a process like this to account for that.”

While Schoeller hopes the state will consider using this auditing process going forward, he feels it’s unlikely the state will take action to move forward the risk-audit system until after the 2020 elections.

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