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Video of Lake County, FL Elections Canvassing Board "Audit" of vote machine counts vs manual count
Dec. 4, 2016 Tavares, FL
Lake County Elections Canvas Board Audit Count and my observations.
Three teams of elections department staff recount manual ballots to match to machine totals.
I recorded a three hour, 13 minute video that documents the process used by the Lake County, FL Elections Supervisor staff and Canvassing Board on Nov. 21, 2016 to "audit" two selected precincts and a selected race in order to match manually counted paper ballots to already reported vote totals prepared by consolidation of voting machine totals.
You don't have to watch the entire three hours of the video. Watch the first twenty minutes and the last twenty minutes.
If you are concerned about the integrity of the vote process in Florida and Lake County, read all the comments and my observations about the process below, then watch at least the first and last 20 minutes of the video.
It is time the voting process defined by the State of Florida had more integrity and credibility by using well known 21st Century data accuracy, transparency and quality control procedures I have seen in the corporate world.
Description of meeting from Lake County Elections website:
Elections Support Center, Mt. Dora
Conduct State-mandated Post Election
Manual Machine Audit
Adjourn Canvassing Board for 11-8-16 General Election
Translation (The Elections website rarely describes procedures in plain English):
Florida State requires each County Elections Supervisor to conduct an "audit" of voting machine generated vote counts for a specific election race for TWO precincts.
On Nov. 10, the Elections Canvassing Board held a drawing to pick which election race should be "audited", and it was the Presidential Race (I was there - it could have been a city council position with lots fewer votes to count).
Then they had a drawing to select two of the precincts to "audit" which was the large Precinct #96 (Villages) and a smaller precinct, #98.
The "audit" process is to take the official counts resulting from scanned vote counts on election day, plus absentee and early voting for the two selected precincts, and manually count all the paper ballots to match the counts to those generated by the scanners (voting machines).
The Lake County, FL Elections Canvassing Board, including Supt. of Elections Emogene Stegall (far end of table), Judge Terry Neal, and Jennifer Hill, plus staff
So, since the machine count reports also listed how many of those two precincts were turned in during absentee and early voting at selected voting sites, they had to get those precinct boxes, have teams wade through them to manually find the ballots for precincts 98 & 96, and count them. Then they counted the election day ballots for the two precincts, and tallied the votes and "undercounts" (no votes) for each Presidential candidate. They wrote the counts on worksheets (shown in the video), compared them to the official counts. If there was a difference, they went back and recounted the manual ballots (which was done for one precinct) until they found the missing count. Once all the numbers obtained from manual counts were totaled, and they matched the machine counts, they wrote up a final report that was signed by the canvasising Board members who were present.
There are some small glitches in the system I watched, but assuming all the boxes had not been touched, the count seemed to be accurate and an indicator there were no major machine errors (at least with the two tested precincts). This was not a valid statistical sample like a CPA would use, but it is what the state requires. The philosophy of the retiring Elections Supervisor is she ONLY does what the State requires, and nothing more.
This "audit" process is not a professional statistically selected sample like CPA's would use. It is a basic, manual drawing that results in a manual test count of paper ballots to match to already known counts transmitted by voting machines to a central unit that consolidates them and adds prior early voting and absentee ballots. In my opinion as a former corporate internal audit manager, this process has holes in it that can be exploited by a dis-honest employee or elections supervisor. I comment on a couple of them in the video with text. I have seen no evidence of that in Lake County, but they make "human" errors frequently in the vote handling procedures which is a separate subject. At least five times, voting procedure screwups were reported by the Republican Party and the press in Lake County in the primary and before the general elections in 2016.
In this case, the result of the three hour count was a 100% match of the counts comparing the manually counted ballots to the machine generated reports that were already posted. The three teams doing the count had the machine totals in front of them, so they knew what numbers they had to reach, which means dishonest staff could sit there and insert a fake count at any time to get the matching number they needed. A more secure method would be to have the teams reach manual counts without any knowledge of the machine totals, give them to a CANVASSING BOARD MEMBER, NOT STAFF, who compares the manual counts to the machine totals. If they do not match, the teams are just told to do a recount without knowing how far they were off. I was told procedures allow for up to a .5% variance to be acceptable, but at least one more recount, by a different team, again, without knowledge of the machine totals, should be done to get a new total. Without doing that, the process is subject to easy manipulation to get a 100% match.
So, this process is window dressing to make honest elections staffs look honest, but leaves holes in it for dishonest staff to take advantage of.
I will be assembling my observations of the entire vote process, with recommendations for improvement in the next month for discussion with the new Elections Supervisor, the State Elections Department, True the Vote and various officials. It is time the voting process defined by the State of Florida had more integrity and credibility by using well known 21st Century data accuracy, transparency and quality control procedures I have seen in the corporate world.