Count Votes; Check

15 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2022

Date Written: November 3, 2022


Voters know computers, including election computers, can be wrong. The best ways to check election computers are “ballot image audits” and “risk-limiting audits” (BIAs and RLAs), which have different strengths. BIAs audit all contests with scanned ballot images created soon after voters mark their ballots. BIAs do not depend on ballots that have been locked away in storage rooms, which have been breached repeatedly in US elections. BIAs occur in 9 states, and in many states the public can conduct BIAs with public copies of the scanned ballot images. RLAs occur in 5 states and use statistical samples of paper ballots from the storage rooms. RLAs and 100% hand counts can cover all contests, though currently they only check one or two contests per election. Most states use “batch percentage audits” which do not cover enough batches to be reliable for most contests. Some states have no election audits. Inexpensive improvements are possible for all audits, including quality control (QC) on election scanners, digital signatures to secure electronic files and ballot storage, and anonymous hotlines for staff to report problems.

Keywords: election, audit, rla, risk, ballot, image, vote, cybersecurity, quality control, scanner, batch, precinct,s ample, hand count, recount, threat, computer, cost, tabulation, hotline

Suggested Citation

Burke, Paul, Count Votes; Check (November 3, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

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