Philadelphia and Mercer to Implement New Post-Election Audits for November 2019 Election

Philadelphia and Mercer counties will be the first counties in the commonwealth to do enhanced audits of election results using recommendations from experts.

Both counties approved the purchase of new voting systems in recent weeks. County election officials will use mathematically proven sampling to verify election results after their voters cast ballots with the new systems for the first time in November 2019.

“This is a major step forward in ensuring the accuracy and integrity of elections in Pennsylvania,” Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said. “Philadelphia and Mercer are true leaders, paving the way for the commonwealth to develop best practices and carry out the most verifiable elections possible.”

The Philadelphia city commissioners last week approved the purchase of Election Systems & Software’s Express Vote XL for use by their 1,047,000 registered voters beginning in November.

“I am proud that Philadelphia is first out of the gate to pilot the new enhanced post-election audits,” Philadelphia City Commissioners Chair Lisa Deeley said. “This is one of the major benefits of our new voter-verifiable paper-ballot voting system. Heading into the all-important 2020 presidential election, Philadelphia voters will be further ensured that their vote counts and counts correctly.”

Earlier in February, Mercer County Board of Elections approved the use of paper ballots with the ES&S DS200 optical scanners, along with ES&S Express Vote accessible ballot-marking devices.

Mercer County is honored to have been asked by the Department of State to be on the ground floor of what is expected to be the future of post-election audits in Pennsylvania,” Director of Elections Jeff Greenburg said. “While we are certainly aware there are many hurdles to overcome before this is implemented statewide, we recognize how important this can be to strengthen our voters’ trust and faith in elections.”

Earlier this month, the Department of State convened a statewide audit working group to consider models to enhance Pennsylvania’s post-election audit process based on current national standards. One type of audit the working group is considering is a risk-limiting audit, designed to provide statistical evidence that the election tabulation is correct. This is accomplished through hand counting of key samples of voter-verified paper records.  Pennsylvania has committed to having every county employing such enhanced audits by the 2022 general election.

In Pennsylvania, every voting system and paper ballot must include plain-language text that voters can use to verify their choices. In performing audits or recounts, elections officials also will use the plain text.

In April 2018, the Department of State informed counties they must select new voting systems that provide a paper record and meet 21st-century standards of security, auditability and accessibility no later than Dec. 31, 2019, and must implement those systems no later than the 2020 primary election.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, along with the U.S. Senate and House intelligence committees and many security experts, have called on all state and local election officials to make certain that by the 2020 presidential election every American votes on a ballot that can be checked and verified by the voter and that can be audited by election officials.

Under the Pennsylvania Election Code, every county must employ voting systems that are certified by both the federal Election Assistance Commission and the secretary of the commonwealth. There are four voting systems certified under the new security and accessibility standards, with another two systems currently in the certification process.