UPDATE: Weston conducts post-election audit

p1-elex-ConstantineWeston has been chosen as one of 77 voting districts whose Nov. 4 election results will be audited by the secretary of the state’s office.

As required by state statute, on Thursday, Nov. 13, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill randomly chose the precincts that will undergo a hand audit between Nov. 19 and  24.

Weston will hold its hand count on Thursday, Nov. 20, in the town hall Meeting Room, beginning at 9 a.m.

The law requires 10% of those polls that used optical scan machines to be chosen at random to have their results checked by hand against the machine totals.

“We are committed to making sure Connecticut voters have continued confidence that their votes were recorded accurately, and that’s why these independent audits are so vital,” said Ms. Merrill. “We don’t just take the machines’ word for it. … Connecticut has the toughest elections audit law in the country, and I am confident that following this audit the numbers will once again match.”

Optical scan machines

Optical scan technology was implemented in Connecticut in 2007. Then Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz said at the time she chose the machines used “because it provides a level of security needed to ensure the short-term and long-term integrity of our elections.”

One of the advantages the optical scan machines have over the old lever-pull voting machines is the paper trail available with the new ones that expedite audits and recounts.

According to the secretary of the state’s office, Connecticut is the first state in New England to require a comprehensive audit of election results.

In the Nov. 4 general election, 763 polling precincts used the optical scan voting machines, meaning 77 were picked to have their results audited, as well as 23 alternate precincts. Districts already part of a recount are exempt from audits by the state.

Hand audits

State statute requires the hand audits to be open to public observation. The results are analyzed by the University of Connecticut, and then presented to the secretary of the state’s office. The secretary of the state then must file a report with the state Elections Enforcement Commission, which makes the report public.

The audit must include manually counting the total number of ballots cast, the total votes received by each candidate on ballots properly completed, and total votes received by each candidate on ballots that were not properly completed.

Improperly completed ballots include those on which someone voted for the same candidate twice (candidates are sometimes cross-endorsed and therefore listed on more than one party line). Also, ballots in Connecticut are filled in by using a marker to fill in an oval next to a candidate’s name; sometimes an oval is not filled in properly, and so the machine can’t read it. In those cases, poll workers manually review the ballot to see if they can determine who the voter intended to choose.

Weston was last chosen to participate in the statewide audit in 2011. That year — which was a municipal election year — there were 2,489 ballots cast in Weston. It took 20 workers about five hours to hand count three races that were drawn by lot.

At this year’s election, 3,672 Westonites voted. There were 11 races and two ballot questions.

However, only ballots for Weston’s Voting District 1 — the one that includes the  28th Senate District — will be audited.

There were 1,483 Voting District 1 ballots cast on Nov. 4. Laura Smits, Democratic registrar, said the three races that Weston must hand count are the governor/leiutenant governor, comptroller, and attorney general.

Ms. Smits estimates it will again take about five hours to conduct the audit, and that the cost will be approximately $3,125. The Board of Selectmen are considering a request for a suplemental appropriation for this amount at its meeting tonight, Thursday, Nov. 20.

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