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AR Begins 2020 Election-Audit Pilot Program

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Experts say storage and retention of election materials are important aspects of an audit. (Adobe Stock)
Experts say storage and retention of election materials are important aspects of an audit. (Adobe Stock)
December 1, 2020

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- As President Donald Trump continues to insist the presidential election was marred by what he has called "massive voter fraud" that resulted in a win for President-elect Joe Biden, more states and counties are implementing election auditing procedures.

Experts say audits are a crucial element of election oversight, but the general public may not be familiar with the process.

Tammy Patrick, senior advisor with the group Democracy Fund, said there are different kinds of audits for different purposes, but any of them can be helpful.

"If you wanted to know if the poll workers made an error, what kind of audit would you think about doing? A reconciliation audit. If you wanted to know if the machine or machines counted or worked correctly, quite often it's a hand-count audit," Patrick said. "And if you want to know, like, was the correct winner called, that's where the risk-limiting audit comes into play."

Under a law that went into effect in 2019, Arkansas state officials have 60 days to begin auditing general election results in at least four counties. To complete the audit, the State Board of Election Commissioners will select the polling sites, early voting locations and vote centers to be audited.

The audit results will be made publicly available, but have no legal effect on the outcome of the election.

In traditional audits, officials typically examine a fixed percentage of voting districts or voting machines and compare paper-ballot results to those produced by voting machines.

Ben Adida, executive director of the nonprofit VotingWorks, said this year's expansion of paper balloting has made post-election audits possible in more states, which could help boost public confidence in the voting process. But he said even the most detailed audits are only one piece of the puzzle.

"A risk-limiting audit is not something that tells you that everything went perfectly well," Adida said. "It is meant to build confidence in the tabulation of the contests that are selected."

He added election auditing also is becoming common practice.

In 2008, fewer than half of states required any type of post-election audit. Now, at least 38 states and the District of Columbia have a post-election audit process, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.

Support for this reporting was made possible by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - AR