Hand counts of votes may cause errors, says new study
A study released by Rice University and Clemson University reports that the hand counting of votes in post-election audits or recount procedures may result in error rates of as much as 2 percent.
The study, funded by the National Science Foundation and titled "Post-Election Auditing: Effects of Election Procedure and Ballot Type on Manual Counting Accuracy, Efficiency and Auditor Satisfaction and Confidence," will appear in an upcoming issue of the Election Law Journal.
Participants in the study simulated two types of group-counting procedures commonly used in U.S. elections.
The first procedure, called the "read-and-mark" method, requires four election officials to count the ballots sequentially as they are taken from the top of an unsorted stack of ballots. One official reads the choice on the ballot for the race being tallied out loud. Another official reviews each ballot to ensure that the spoken vote corresponds to what was on the ballot and also collates ballots in cross-stacks of 10. The third and fourth members of the audit team record the tally.
The second procedure, called the "sort-and-stack" method, is like the "read-and-mark" method, except it counts only one race at a time. The auditing team for the "sort-and-stack" method is made up of three members who each work on his or her own tally sheet.
According to the study, the error rates can play a significant role in especially close elections.
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