Va Dept. of Elections Says Audit Shows Election Integrity

Mar 2, 2021

The Department of Elections announced Tuesday that an audit it conducted confirmed the integrity of Virginia’s election system.  The audit found that the chances election officials missed a faulty machine in the presidential election was less than 1 in 100,000.  

The department collaborated with VotingWorks, a non-profit organization that helps conduct Risk-Limiting Audits, a method of assessing election systems.

“Our risk measurement for the presidential election was .0000065117%,” said Ginny Vander Roest of VotingWorks in a meeting with election supervisors. “The risk measurement is the possibility that we might have missed something.”

“The success of Virginia’s first statewide audit reaffirms our dedication to ensuring secure and accurate elections for our voters,” said Christopher Piper, Virginia’s Commissioner of Elections in a press release. “I am proud of the hard work that our election administrators do in the Commonwealth, and this audit further exemplifies the integrity and validity of the 2020 November General Election results."

The process of the RLA began on February 24, when Piper and others threw ten 20-sided dice to determined a random string of numbers. That string selects ballots randomly from across the commonwealth to make up a random sample of ballots. After those ballots are counted, officials compared the sample’s margin of victory to the margin from November. That comparison provides a measure of confidence that election software wasn’t faulty, either due to hardware, software, or human error. 

The audit does not assess the final count, but looks at the outcome of the election: a measure of confidence that the reported winner actually won.

RLAs are cheaper than a recount and more accurate than a spot audit, according to Monica Childers of VotingWorks. She said this method of auditing election software provides a broader sample rather than a spot check in which a few voting machines or precincts are examined.

Since 2018 Virginia law has required that each locality participates in an RLA at least once every five years, but this is the first statewide audit. Piper said that ELECT intends to still have locality based audits in coming years.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.