Secretary Benson announces post-election audit plans

VoteJUNE 3, 2019

June audits will verify May 7 election results in Lansing, Muskegon, Wyandotte

The Secretary of State’s Bureau of Elections is partnering with local election officials and national experts to verify the results of May 7 local elections using risk-limiting audits, an increasingly prevalent tool for election result verification.

“We are expanding our pilot of risk-limiting audits as part of our efforts to ensure the security of our elections,” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said. “Michigan’s election system already incorporates many important recommendations of national security and cybersecurity experts, including the use of paper ballots, mandatory pre-election testing on voting equipment and performance-based audits to verify completion of election tasks. The expansion to post-election audits is an important focus of our work and a priority for our recently formed Election Security Advisory Commission.”

The Bureau of Elections will work with Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope, Lansing Township Clerk Susan Aten, Muskegon County Clerk Nancy Waters and Wyandotte City Clerk Lawrence Stec on the project, along with staff of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Voting Works and the Brennan Center for Justice.

The audits are open to the public and will begin at 9 a.m. at the following locations:

  • Monday, June 10 – Lansing School District – City of Lansing Election Unit, 2500 S. Washington Ave.
  • Wednesday, June 12 – Muskegon County – Laketon Township Hall, 2735 W. Giles Road
  • Tuesday, June 25 – City of Wyandotte – Yack Arena, 3131 Third St., Wyandotte

Risk-limiting audits have emerged nationally as the preeminent method for confirming election results. They use statistical methods to perform a comprehensive check on the accuracy of reported election results and to detect anomalies, possibly tied to human error or manipulation. Using a mathematical formula, auditors in each locality will randomly select ballots to confirm that the ballot tabulators correctly tallied election results.

The method first was implemented by the state of Colorado, where elections are run at the county level and the vast majority of voting occurs by mail. Michigan is exploring ways to adapt these audits to its own highly decentralized elections structure, in which 1,520 city and township clerks administer both in-person and by-mail voting in more than 4,800 individual precincts, with county clerks also playing a role in canvassing election results.

Michigan began working last year with national experts to study and define risk-limiting audit methodology for states with individual precincts. Michigan first conducted pilot audits after the November 2018 midterm election in the cities of Kalamazoo, Lansing and Rochester Hills. The May audits will build on last year’s pilots using elections that cover multiple jurisdictions. In addition to developing tools for Michigan, the audits could become a national model for other states with similar structures. To that end, several election administrators from other states will be attending, observing and learning from Michigan’s audits.

The goal of these expanded pilots is to continue development of an overall audit model for Michigan that will work for local elections, as well as a full statewide audit of election results.

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