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  • Kevin Elliott

Rochester Hills to pilot election security system

Rochester Hills has been selected as one of three communities in Michigan that will pilot a new post-election audit system intended to confirm election results, detect possible anomalies in areas that may need further scrutiny due to human error, possible manipulation, cyberattacks and other factors.

The pilot system, which will take place after the 2018 November general election, will be used in Rochester Hills, Lansing and Kalamazoo. The system is new to Michigan as well as most of the country. The post-election audit uses statistical methods to assess results, and has been recommended by the U.S. Senate Select Intelligence Committee as part of a strong and resilient election security infrastructure.

"Election security measures, such as risk-limiting audits, are an important element to ensuring election integrity – from the beginning of the process through the certification of a winner," said Rochester Hills City Clerk Tina Barton. "My job is not only to administer fair and accurate elections, but also to maintain voter confidence in the system. This process, which will include Michigan voters reviewing paper ballots, may be a cost-effective option to provide additional assurance to our voters."

The new procedures use Michigan's new voting equipment and is being conducted in partnership with the Michigan Bureau of Elections; Jerome Lovato of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission; Ron Rivest and Mayuri Sridhar of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Phillip B. Stark of the University of California, Berkeley; the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law; Verified Voting; and Indiana's Voting System Technical Oversight Program.

"This pilot project will allow us to explore a number of effective and efficient audit procedures that will further strengthen our election security profile," Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said. "While the initial use of risk-limiting audits in other states has been intriguing, we are excited to partner with some very respected officials in this field to test this concept in Michigan's unique, decentralized election structure. The feedback we obtain from these pilots will enable the bureau to assess how best to move forward with this concept on a statewide basis, and further strengthen Michigan's post-election audit process."

Michigan's election system already incorporates many important recommendations by national security and cybersecurity experts, including the use of paper ballots, mandatory pre-election testing on all voting equipment used in every election, and performance-based audits that also verify that key pre-election, election day and post-election tasks are successfully completed. Risk-limiting audits could be an important complement to the existing system safeguards that ensure election procedural and equipment compliance. These pilots will incorporate a number of variations of the basic procedure to evaluate operational efficiency and ease of use.

Currently, only Colorado, Rhode Island and Virginia require risk-limiting audits. A handful of jurisdictions across the country have conducted risk-limiting audit pilots, including Marion County, Indiana, and Orange County, California.

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