Ballots are routinely audited twice
Does the state ever conduct an audit of the voting results after the election? The ballots cast in Hawaii have been counted with computers for many years. Much like electricity, which we cannot see, we cannot see the insides of the software program. It would be a good idea to conduct a random audit of a percentage of precincts to ensure the validity and security of the software. Has this ever been done, and if so, has there ever been a discrepancy?
Answer: Two main types of audits are routinely conducted each election: manual audits involving hand-counting 15 percent of votes cast; and a pollbook audit, comparing the number of signatures in pollbooks with the number of ballots cast.
The manual-audit team is a "semi-independent body," made up of members from the community, who will look at results in specific races and precincts to audit, explained Rex Quidilla, spokesman for the State Elections Office. "They play a key role in ensuring that the vote totals are correct."
As reports and results flow in on election night, the manual-audit team also will identify certain races, especially the tight ones, "so special attention will be paid to those races," Quidilla said.
Election-night observers "also play an important role in this process," he noted. "They also are able to audit the vote totals themselves" -- entire precincts in specific races.
"The other important audit is the pollbook audit, conducted both by volunteers on election night, as well as by election administrators," Quidilla said.
The auditing is done as votes come in, as well as "into the wee hours of the morning," he said.
But even before Election Day, all machines that tabulate vote totals are tested, he said.
Meanwhile, attention also is paid to electronic voting machines, which are required by federal law.
In Hawaii, voters are given the option to vote either by "the primary system," involving manually marking ballots with a pen, which has been in use here since 1998, or via the electronic system, introduced here in 2004.
There is at least one electronic voting machine at each polling place, and several at the early-voting sites, where there is more space.
The law requires all electronic voting systems to generate paper ballots that may be inspected and corrected by voters before they're cast, and retained for record-keeping.
For electronic voting machines, "what is audited is the paper trail produced by the machine," Quidilla said. "That is also routine and required by law."
Asked if any irregularity had been uncovered by the audits, he noted the 1998 election, in which an audit revealed seven machines had "erroneously produced blank results." The vote totals were corrected, but the malfunctioning machines had not changed the results of the voting, Quidilla said.
An audit also may result because of a challenge.
But challenging election results is "a separate process entirely -- that's a legal process" in which the state Supreme Court would be asked to step in.
In such cases, "the court would prescribe a remedy, if any," Quidilla said.
In general, "a lot of eyes" are looking over "vote totals and tallies and the entire process," he said. "The key to the election process is transparency, and these audits insure that this level of transparency is maintained throughout the entire chain."
Q: I was wondering if readers could help answer a puzzling question. A great book titled "A Century of Aloha" by MacKinnon Simpson has a photo of a person possibly from the 1930s standing on the slopes of Punchbowl overlooking Honolulu. Behind him on the ground are stone markers labeling landmarks such as Aloha Tower, Pearl Harbor, the Pineapple Cannery, Kawaiahao Church, etc. Would anyone know if the markers are still there? No one, not even Bishop Museum, could answer.
A: Anyone out there know anything about the markers? If so, please call Kokua Line at 529-4773 and leave a message.
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