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Why Audit for Transparency. Lillie Coney National Committee for Voting Integrity Minneapolis, MN October 26, 2007.

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Why Audit for Transparency

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Why Audit for Transparency

Lillie Coney

National Committee for Voting Integrity

Minneapolis, MN

October 26, 2007

Lillie Coney is Associate Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. EPIC is a public interest research center established in 1994 to focus public attention on emerging civil liberties issues and to protect privacy, the First Amendment, and constitutional values.


EPIC’s Voting Project


  • The National Committee for Voting Integrity (NCVI) is an EPIC project that brings together experts on voting issues from across the country to promote constructive dialogue among computer scientists, elections administrators, voting rights advocates, policymakers, the media and the public on the best methods for achieving in practice: fair, reliable, secure, accessible, transparent, accurate, accountable, and auditable public elections.

Why Audit?

  • Lessons learned by the financial services industry

    • Health of an entity

    • Oversight of complicated processes

    • Accounting of resources

    • Facilitate transparency or openness

    • Increase trust

What is Transparency

  • Open records laws are tools for the public to better understand how resources of an organization have been used.

  • It is a key component of a functioning healthy democracy.

Transparency and Elections

  • Good Government Efforts by Citizens

    • Sunshine is the best disinfectant

      • Open processes to public review

      • Restore Confidence in Elections

      • Ensure support for the proper administration of elections

      • Encourage funding for election administration needs

Transparency is Part of the Election Process

  • Publishing times and locations where voters can cast ballots

  • Sending out sample ballots to voters

  • Reporting on the results of elections

  • Statistics on registrations, absentee ballots submitted, and votes cast.

Transparency is not about...

  • Finding agreement

  • Seeking approval

  • Getting Conscienses

  • An admission of guilt

What are the challenges to Transparency and Elections

  • Turning election administration into uniform data points

  • Determining how much information is enough

  • How will information be captured in a uniform and reliable manner

  • Using the data collected in a meaningful and productive way that will better inform election administrators, the public, media, and decision makers.

Transparency and Public Elections

  • Requires the cooperation of public elections professionals, researchers, academics, election reformers, and voting right advocacy groups

  • Research to support the approaches adopted

  • Adequate resources to support audits

  • A constant eye toward improvement

What are the Challenges to Election Audits

  • We need a common language for election audits:

    • Technologists can talk with other technologists

    • Election officials can talk with other election officials

    • Voting rights advocates can talk with other voting rights advocates.

    • How do they speak with each other?

Audits and Public Perceptions

  • People respond to the audit environment based on expectations.

  • Reliable and predictable communications from financial service providers

    • Bank statements

    • Credit Card Bills

    • Customer Service Contact Information

What is the Pay Off for Audits

  • Elections are highly emotional and contested events.

  • Winners v. Losers

  • Reduce the high Cost of Litigation

  • Increase the robustness of processes and institutions

  • Increase the learning curve on election administration and retention of institutional memory that is more resilient.

Why Audit Elections

  • Conclusion

    • Democracies rely on self governance

    • Self governance relies on access to information

    • Finding the right mix of resources is better addressed with understanding the process and quantifying that knowledge

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