Election Audits – A Simple Explanation

Larry Moore

September 20, 2021

Recently I posted a blog entry that provided additional data by storage box. I released the vote counts for third-party Presidential candidate Jo Jorgenson for each of 1,634 storage boxes.

To the organizers of the Arizona Senate’s months-long process designed to undermine confidence in the Maricopa’s election, this data signaled that we could effectively audit their numbers.

Several people asked me questions that indicated that they did not have a clear concept of the audit. Having spent the last decade working on this audit methodology now marketed and supported by the company I founded, the Clear Ballot Group, it behooves me to explain it more clearly.

First, a definition. An audit compares two independently produced results based on the same data. It’s like asking two people to add an identical list of numbers.  If the results are the same and they did not talk to one another, we can be reasonably sure the totals are correct.

But, what is a “result?”

In elections, there are two types of results: ballot counts and vote counts.  Like Maricopa’s, all U.S. election departments create ballot counts by precinct and vote counts by candidate and precinct. However, the Senate contractors, the Cyber Ninjas, Inc., did not have the ballots organized by Maricopa’s 743 precincts. Instead, ballots were organized by storage box. Each storage box had an average of 1,274 ballots and 374 distinct precincts. Precincts were comingled in the same storage boxes because 90% of ballot cast were returned during the early voting period. There was no need to physically sort the ballots by precinct because the tabulation software could do that automatically.

Why does this matter? Because the county’s results and the Ninja’s results were not comparable.  Precinct counts cannot be compared to counts by storage box. The Ninjas cannot do an audit. Period.

We, the Audit Guys, linked Maricopa county’s official results to the 1,634 ballot storage boxes. The result: we can make an apples-to-apples comparison between the county’s results and the Ninja’s results.

Here are excerpts from the Audit Template with which we intend to audit the Ninja’s ballot and vote counts.

Compares official ballot counts to Ninja’s ballot counts and links counts to storage box and pallet.
Compares official vote counts to Ninja’s vote counts and links counts to storage box and pallet.

Here is a link to an expanded version of the above snapshots that explains the audit in greater detail.

Hopefully, you will see the conceptual simplicity of the audit:

List the boxes that should be counted, subtract the Ninja’s results from the official results for ballots and votes, analyze the differences.

I’ve personally participated in over 50 audits. We typically find that ballot control is the hardest thing for an election department do consistently. 

Maricopa’s process, which traces every ballot from the envelope opening process straight through tabulation, is among the very best I’ve ever seen.

Author: Larry Moore

I founded the Clear Ballot Group in 2009 as an audit firm. My goal was to bring a new class of tools to help election officials build trust in the integrity of their elections. In early 2018, Clear Ballot became the first company in over a decade to bring a new voting system successfully through federal certification. I retired from Clear Ballot in December 2018. Now, I've joined Benny White and Tim Halvorsen to bring our expertise to debunk the disinformation surrounding the Maricopa 2020 election.