Colorado passes 2021 election risk limitation audit

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Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kim Bonner retrieves the ballots the Colorado Secretary of State chose to have audited in the statewide risk mitigation audit earlier this this month.
Dylan Anderson / Steamboat Pilot and Today

The election buzz has set in and the county’s new elected officials are already or will soon be settling into their new roles – even though the last seat of the South Routt County School Board has kept the suspense going beyond the night of the elections.

The outcome of that race was delayed until the ballots were completely healed, allowing a voter for up to eight days after the election to correct an error that led to their ballot being is not initially counted.

However, even when all the ballots have been counted and the results are finalized, the job of an electoral judge is not finished.



After each election, Colorado performs a Voting Risk Limiting Audit, which aims to ensure statistical confidence in the election outcome and that the winners produced by the voting system reflect the one voters have chosen.

Every county in the state – except for two that count the votes by hand – participates in the audit, and the state as a whole must meet the risk limit; otherwise, each county must start over.



“We were one of the first states to have it implemented,” Routt County and Record Clerk Kim Bonner said earlier this month during the audit. “Other states are following suit because voters need to be assured that the result is correct.”

The audit has a risk limit of 3%, which means that if an election had an incorrectly reported result, the audit would detect the error 97 times out of 100. Once passed, the audit “offers a very good level of evidence “that the reported result was correct, according to the Colorado Secretary of State.

During the counting, a lot and ballot number are assigned to them, which allows them to be identified among the other ballots collected, which at this stage do not contain the name of the voter. This information is then uploaded to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.

The Secretary of State selects a number of bulletins to audit, or control. The ballots are chosen at random and must be collected from the various blue metallic ballot boxes in which they are placed once counted. To get the initial random number needed for the system to select ballots, officials roll 20 10-sided dice at a public meeting.

Routt County was required to verify 63 ballots, which meant Bonner and election coordinator Sara Williams had to pick them out of the dozen boxes that contained the county’s 9,577 votes in that election. year.

“It’s completely random as to how many each county has, and it may be the complete opposite of what you think,” Bonner said.

The ballot is then given to another team because, during the initial counting of the votes, both Bonner and Williams were assisting in the adjudication of various ballots. Verification requires that another person inspect the ballot a second time.

Election judges must also be different, although there is always one for each party, such as when counting the votes.

Jenny Thomas, Deputy Chief Clerk and County Recorder, sits at a computer where she enters the results that election judges inspect on the ballot into the Secretary of State’s system.

Democratic Election Judge Nancy Perricone and Republican Election Judge Barb Ficke inspect each ballot and relay the results to Thomas. The state is specifically looking at a statewide race, Proposition 119, and a local race, the District 1 race for the Steamboat Springs Council. Yet they enter the entire ballot into the system.

The state passed the audit on the first try last week, giving voters confidence that the result is correct.

Statewide, the audit found about 40 discrepancies, including one in Routt County, according to the secretary of state’s office. On this ballot, the voting machine read a stray mark in the bubble for James Hoff as a vote for him in the South Routt District 3 School Board race, where he ran unopposed.

When they were judged during the audit, Perricone and Ficke determined that it was not an intentional vote.

“It’s basically a gap between how it was judged and how the machine read it,” Bonner said, giving an example of the gap. “There is a minimum of space to fill in this oval. For example, if there was a check that you thought didn’t fill enough space, and you rated it one way, but the machine counted it, that would be a discrepancy. “

After the audit is complete, the county is required to keep the ballots for 25 months. They are kept in a vault in the basement of the courthouse which is under constant video surveillance, as is the room where the initial count and audit take place.

If anyone is skeptical about the validity or security of the election, Bonner suggests that he become an election judge to see what steps are taken to ensure security.

“I feel we are safe; our county has been fantastic, ”said Ficke.

“I was blown away when I started working here how careful it is,” added Perricone. “Get off your couch and volunteer. “


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