Virginia Officials Turn in Results of Statewide Election Audit

By Brian Carlton

March 3, 2021

State voting system gets a clean bill of health, with less than a 0.001% risk assessment.

RICHMOND-It’s almost impossible to get a better score than Virginia did on Tuesday. State officials released the results of this year’s election audit, hoping for around a 0.1% risk measurement. They got something quite different.  

“[We] wanted a risk of 0.1%, and our risk measurement for the presidential race was 0.0000065117%,” said Ginny Vander Roest from the nonprofit Voting Works. Her group managed the election audit. “And it was 0.000424172% for the Senate race.” 

In this case, you want the smallest number possible, which is what Virginia got. The percentage is called the risk measurement, as Vander Roest mentioned. It represents the possibility a mistake could be found large enough to reverse the election result. In this case, the state focused on the presidential and U.S. Senate races. And in both cases, the percentage was beyond small, showing that there were no major errors. 

“With that, I feel incredibly confident in the winners of these two races,” Vander Roest said. “No tabulation errors could have changed the outcome.” 

The process is done through random samples. On Feb. 22, election officials gathered to roll 20 dice. They do this to come up with the “seed” number and they use dice so that everyone knows it’s random. Election officials then take the 20 numbers from the dice and plug them into the audit tool. It uses those numbers to randomly choose ballots from across the state to review. 

It’s randomly generated so that no one can throw out accusations about the process. Literally no one knows beforehand what the number will be.

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Establishing Trust in the Process

The audit happens once every five years under Virginia Code. The goal here is to basically walk through the process for every city, county and region, outlining any areas that need to be improved.

“A statewide audit is so important,” said Christopher Piper, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections. “It is part of the process of creating that public trust and helping with that public perception of how elections are conducted here in the Commonwealth. While we I believe have a strong record of fair and free elections, I think everything we can do to reaffirm those perceptions is really important. To do this in a transparent way so everyone can have confidence in those elections is important.”  

Now Virginia can do an audit like this since we use paper ballots. You vote, turn it in and then the poll workers run it through the machine. The difference during the audit is that everything happens by hand. That way you avoid any possibility of machine error causing an issue.

Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at [email protected].

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