BRISTOL - This will be the second time a Bristol election is audited while Kevin McCauley has been Democratic registrar of voters for the city.
Chippens Hill Middle School, 551 Peacedale St., was selected along with the random drawing of 33 other precincts across the state - equal to five percent of the 677 precincts that use an optical scanner to read marked paper ballots and tally the results in Connecticut. The audit is dictated by Connecticut General Statutes Section 9-320.
“I’m sure there’s some happiness by registrars who didn’t get picked,” said McCauley. “But everyone has their fair shot.”
“We did four audits in a row,” said Elizabeth Tedeschi, Republican registrar of voters for the town of Berlin, while stating Berlin’s high tendency to be chosen for an audit while some towns haven’t been selected at all.
What being audited means for the city, McCauley said, is following a step-by-step guidebook to ensure nothing is missed while counting by hand the results of at least three offices on the ballots and making sure they match the voting totals of the machines. It is not a recount, and the city clerk will randomly decide which offices are the ones audited, McCauley said.
“We’ll get an even mix of electors, between R’s and D’s,” said McCauley of the six to 10 individuals who will conduct the audit. He said individuals will be divided into teams of two to count the ballots and that it should all be completed in one day.
According to McCauley, 441 will need to be counted out of the precinct.
“We tentatively have it scheduled for Nov. 30,” said McCauley, who added it must be completed by Dec. 18.
From there, a report of the audit will be sent to UConn for additional analysis. If a margin of victory in a race is less than the number of discrepancies multiplied by the total number of voting districts in the town, a “recanvass,” or recount, is needed. So for example, 2,381 votes separated Ellen Zoppo Sassu in her victory over Ken Cockayne and over 264.5 discrepancies would need to be found in order to cause a recanvass.
In either case, if a discrepancy is found with a voting machine the Secretary of State can further investigate if a counting machine was compromised and submit a report to the State Elections Enforcement Commission, who may further investigate to determine if any violation of election law have been committed.
“Pretty much all the same results come out,” said McCauley on the likelihood of a discrepancy being found.
“The audit is only five percent (of the state),” said Gabe Rosenberg, communications director for Secretary of the State Denise Merrill. Previously the requirement was 10 percent and was mainly used for older machines that didn’t digitally record votes.
Rosenberg also referenced Merrill’s comments during the drawing, which stated “This is really important because the public needs to know and be sure that our elections are transparent and fair.”
Berlin also had District 1 Willard School selected as the ninth alternate, as Plantsville School in Southington was selected as the 13 alternate, should any of the 34 precincts chosen be unable to conduct the audit. Precincts already undergoing a recount are exempt from audits by statute.
“I don’t think we’ll need to do anything,” said Thomas Janik, Democratic registrar of voters for Southington, with how low on the alternate list the precinct of his town is. If his town would need to participate in the audit, he said about eight or 10 people across four to six hours would be needed to count the roughly 1,900 votes Plantsville School recorded. He said last year a precinct in his town was selected and that one of his precincts are “seemingly always” picked, but that in the future such an amount of auditing may not be necessary as human error continues to decrease.
“It’s beneficial to have a very good working relationship with your registrar of voters,” said McCauley, who said he’s fortunate to have such. “It helps create the least amount of stress as possible.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @CPaullinNBH.