This is the promised commentary following from the pure info post on my election experience. It may be useful if you wonder how we know what we know about election security.
List of Who Voted
Much auditability comes from the public-record List of Who Voted. Recall that we have Authorization To Vote forms, each contains the voter's information (in Wake County there's a bar-code with the Voter Registration Number). The number of these forms we turn in on Election Day must match the number of ballots counted by the tabulator. These are scanned by the Board of Elections and populate that list.
NC voter registrations can be looked up online. For an example, search Mary-Ann Baldwin in Wake County to see which elections the current mayor of Raleigh has voted in. You can also download this data in bulk, e.g. for Wake County here.
Lots of rumors go around every election (increasing as time goes on) about these scenarios. Here's why they're implausible, and/or could be easily detected:
Ever wonder how studies claiming some tiny amount of voter impersonation could possibly know this? From the list! If someone gets impersonated, one of these things will happen:
- The real voter already voted; the impersonator will get turned away.
- The real voter shows up later, gets turned away because they "already voted", and probably raises hell.
- The real voter doesn't vote in that election, but they will show up on the List of Who Voted.
This means anyone (with a lot of legwork) can go look for impersonation cases: random-sample the list, contact those people, find out if they actually voted or not. That's what the studies do.
Lost Ballots, Found Ballots, etc.
If someone's claiming ballots were inserted into the count, or destroyed instead of counted, then one of these things has to happen:
- The list has more or fewer people on it than the number of ballots.
- Names were added to or removed from the list (e.g. by faking or destroying ATV forms)
Either of these would be easy to spot (list alteration by the same following-up method as when one is looking for impersonation).
At least in NC, many different things are signed off and sealed by a multipartisan team of judges, who have to stay together the whole day. If, say, someone thinks Republicans were given bad ballots at a polling place, they need to explain why a registered Republican signed off on it.
As far as I know, no US jurisdiction lacks this kind of multipartisan election oversight.
Results come from the machine itself, a results tape attached to the machine, two results tapes mailed in by the two non-chief judges, a results tape with zero tape attached in a sealed bag signed by the 3 judges, and a tape posted for the public. So there's no way to alter these without a conspiracy of the entire multipartisan judge team.
NC is phasing out direct-record machines; Wake County has been using optically-scanned paper ballots since I've been working elections. So we don't have to trust the machines - Wake randomly selects some percentage of precincts and hand-counts the ballots to check up. The ballots are sealed in a box by the judges on election day.
Election Security further reading
This report on the state of election security and recommended best practices is very good.