Colorado, Moffat County first to complete new kind of election audit
November 28, 2017
CRAIG — Colorado has become the first state in the country to complete a risk-limiting audit, or RLA, designed to catch mistakes when ballots are tabulated, and Moffat County was part of the successful test that garnered national interest.
"It went really great — better than expected," said Deputy Election Clerk Amanda Tomlinson. "The processes took over a year of preparation with the secretary of state and learning to use the RLA tool."
The RLA is a procedure that provides strong statistical evidence that an election outcome is correct and has a high probability of correcting an erroneous outcome.
It requires humans to examine and verify more ballots in close races and fewer ballots in races with wide margins.
The race for Moffat County School District School Board Director for District 1 — between Chip McIntyre and Mindy Baker — was randomly selected for audit by the Secretary of State's Office.
Of the 3,047 ballots cast in the countywide race, 40 were selected for audit using the RLA algorithm.
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The election canvass board, overseen by Moffat County Democratic Party Chairperson Jo Ann Baxter and Moffat County Republican Party Vice-Chairperson Pam Foster, examined the ballots, detecting no discrepancies on that question. Additionally, the rest of the questions on the sampled ballots were also verified, with zero discrepancies found.
"Compared to how we used to audit in the past, I think this one was a more accurate picture of the election," said Moffat County Clerk and Recorder Lila Herod.
The Colorado Legislature ordered the use of RLAs in 2009, and the procedure is described in the Colorado Secretary of State Election Rule 25.
This was "long before widespread media coverage of fears about hacking election equipment and interference by foreigners," according to a statement by the Colorado Secretary of State's Office.
The timeline to implement RLAs was delayed until the 2017 Coordinated Election.
“I think it's fair to say that both state and county election officials were a little anxious, because this has never been done before,” said Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams in a news release. “But, it turned out to be an amazing success, and that’s because our staff and our county clerks have done a phenomenal job. I am thankful for their hard work and dedication.”
The process attracted attention nationwide, with Matt Masterson, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, and fellow commissioner Thomas Hicks among those who witnessed the procedure.
“Colorado is a national leader in exploring innovative solutions for accessible, secure and auditable elections,” Masterson said. “Colorado's risk-limiting audit provided great insights into how to conduct more efficient and effective post-election audits. The EAC is eager to share some of the lessons learned with election officials across America.”
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.