Witnessing the First Statewide Risk-Limiting Audit

Dec 01, 2017

By Matt Masterson and Ryan Macias

Two weeks ago, the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office and Arapahoe County allowed a few dozen people from across the nation to assist with the first statewide risk-limiting audit (RLA) in Colorado. EAC staff and leadership, including Chairman Matthew Masterson, Commissioner Hicks, Jerome Lovato and Ryan Macias, were among this crowd.

We spent three days participating in a successful and efficient audit. We each rolled a 10-sided dice to determine the random number generator and pulled the ballots to be audited.  We want to thank the Secretary of State and Arapahoe County for the transparency in the audit itself, and for the ability to observe the entire election process. Arapahoe County demonstrated all aspects of the election process at its warehouse, as well as conducted the tabulation and adjudication of the final batches in the election for us.

The EAC spoke with many of the observers and elections staff over the three days and came up with the following observations:

  • Advocates, academics, experts, and elections officials (local, state and federal) did a tremendous job working together to make the audit a success. 
  • Tight controls of the process and batching of ballots are essential to make the process efficient.
  • Uniquely identifying a ballot in a risk-limiting audit is critical, but that can only happen after the ballot is no longer associated with a voter. 
  • For a central count jurisdiction, an RLA is doable with the right process, procedures and training. However, there may still be hurdles to be overcome for jurisdictions that tabulate at the voting location.
  • The next step for Colorado is to determine if there are ways to make the audit more efficient and less error-prone by automating processes and creating less ballot handling. 
  • Colorado election officials must begin preparing for a larger, more complicated election, such as a primary.

The EAC Commissioners and staff that participated in the RLA are excited to continue the work to improve the process, share feedback on successes, observations, and room for improvement, as well as do whatever the agency can to assist in the process. We look forward to working with Colorado to come up with solutions, promote the work that has been completed, and share best practices and resources to jurisdictions that are looking to implement and improve the process, such as the state of Rhode Island.

Thank you to the Colorado Secretary of State and Arapahoe County for taking a risk by being the first to adopt the RLA, and the additional risk of affording the public the opportunity to participate in the process.  From the EAC’s perspective, the rewards reaped well surpass the risks taken. We hope you spend some time celebrating your success. Like all dedicated election officials though, we’re sure you will get right back to work to look for improvement, as 2018 midterms are just around the corner.

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