In rare cases in which an anomaly is identified, audits demonstrate the system working: when there is an issue, election officials identify and address it.
The additional, post-certification audits being called for now are intended to assure voters that their votes were counted accurately. Yet for anomalies to be properly investigated and remediated, audits must take place before results are certified.
Georgia law already requires pre-certification audits for all statewide general elections, which will include the midterm election taking place this November. To further bolster public trust, the Bipartisan Policy Center encourages states to expand pre-certification audit requirements to every election. If implemented in Georgia, current audit requirements would be expanded to include primary, special and runoff elections.
Bartow County demonstrated the importance of regular audits in action when it performed an audit of the primary election, even though not required by law. The county-wide audit confirmed a 99.89% accuracy rate of the original vote count, demonstrating to voters the exceptional trustworthiness of the county’s electoral process. This audit was successful because it took place before state certification and followed recognized security and audit protocols.
Audits that take place after certification risk drumming up doubt in election results without a process to amend them if a discrepancy is found. Making matters worse, audits that take place outside of the traditional statutory process lack the consistency needed to draw conclusions about an election’s overall integrity and threaten the security of election materials by unsealing ballot containers and interrupting the chain of custody.
Audits provide an additional check on top of an already secure system. To ensure each election is accurate, all counties conduct public logic and accuracy tests in which the accuracy of voting and tabulation equipment is rigorously tested and verified before each election. During the election, workers perform tasks publicly and follow strict chain of custody protocols to make sure that no one interferes with the ballots at any point in the process.
Demanding superfluous, unregulated audits months after an election is certified is a form of political gamesmanship that undermines our democracy and the steps already in place protecting election integrity. The stakes are too high to accept anything less than meaningful, pre-certification audits which strengthen election integrity and build trust in the democratic process.
As we approach the November election, voters and candidates alike can rest assured knowing that their local election officials are working hard to administer their elections with the respect and integrity that our democracy deserves.
Joseph Kirk is the election supervisor of Bartow County and a member of the Bipartisan Policy Center Task Force on Elections. Rachel Orey is associate director of the Elections Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center.