EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — The weeks after Election Day are some of the most critical for county elections staff as they work to meet the three week deadlines for certifying election results and auditing election machines.
Every state certifies election results—where the final result is made official—but Colorado started the trend of “risk-limiting audits” on tabulation machines.
“We have the digital image, we have what the machine reads it as, then we have the paper ballot, the physical paper ballot in front of us,” said Chuck Broerman, the republican Clerk, and Recorder for El Paso County, a role that includes overseeing the county’s elections.
El Paso County has certified its election and passed the auditing process to conclude its General Election requirements.
A ten-sided die is rolled twenty times at Colorado’s Secretary of State’s office to instruct county election clerks on which ballots to select for randomized scrutiny. For example, the numbers could tell elections staff to pick the tenth box of ballots, select the 32nd packet in that box, then grab to 43rd ballot in the box to be compared to its digital counterparts.
With local control the norm for the United States’ elections, clerks like Broerman conducts the audit that’s mandated by state law. Two other states have moved to include risk-limiting audits in their election process.
“Colorado is the gold standard,” Broerman said. “Other states are learning this is a good way to demonstrate to their citizens that they got the election results right. We’re glad we’re in this position where we can confirm to our citizens that, yes, we did it correctly and they can have the confidence that we determined the right outcome.”
Both the audit and certification process are conducted under the supervision of election volunteers that have been nominated by El Paso County’s Republican and Democratic parties. They work next to elections staff to read through the dozens of issues that are on each ballot to ensure the records are accurately represented. No matter what, there are always the paper ballots kept secure that can be made available to further validate the results in the case of something like a recount.
“They’ll look at the logs and the paperwork,” Broerman explained. “They’re free to look at anything in their process to give them the assurance that everything we tallied is correct.”
The state requires audits to be completed on November 24 and certification to conclude by November 25.