Readers of this blog know that I am very concerned about the fact that New Jersey is one of only five states that continues to rely almost entirely on electronic voting machines that do not produce a paper record of the votes cast. That makes it difficult, if not impossible, to detect hacking and prevents a recount.
New voting machines that would create a verifiable paper trail had a test run in November, and it appears to have gone well, for the most part, according to an article in NJ Spotlight.
A portion of a $10 million voting security grant was used for a pilot program in Union, Gloucester, and Essex Counties in which new machines that create a paper record were used on Election Day. Post-election audits utilizing those paper records were also conducted.
In “Progress Seen in Test of Paper Trail Voting Machines That Allow Audit of Results,” Colleen O’Dea writes that this pilot and the accompanying audits were deemed a success.
This was the U.S. Senate race, in which incumbent Robert Menendez fended off a challenge from Republican Bob Hugin and several third-party candidates, that was verified using a risk-limiting audit.
Election audits involve counting a portion of the paper ballots to verify the accuracy of the outcome, where the votes have been cast and/or tabulated electronically. In a risk-limiting type of audit, the percentage of ballots is not a set number but varies depending on the number of votes cast and the margin in the particular race.
Christopher Deluzio, who focuses on election security as Counsel to the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, called risk-limiting audits the gold standard and described how states are starting to adopt that approach in a July 25, 2018 article, entitled “A Smart and Effective Way to Safeguard Elections.”
New Jersey has a law requiring election audits that was never implemented because 20 of our 21 counties use voting machines that do not produce a paper trail. Pending legislation, A-3991/S-2633, would repeal the auditing law and replace it with a requirement for risk-limiting audits, to be conducted once counties switch to machines that produce the necessary paper record of the votes cast.