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Expand voting audits

Audit!

That’s usually a word no one anywhere wants to hear. But voting officials did hear it following the Nov. 3 election. It came with no suggestion of possible problems, but in accordance with a monitoring procedure instituted when the state converted to ballot-scanning machines.

By state law, 5% of polling places are randomly audited to detect any anomalies in vote counting using the optical scanners. If errors are found, the review is broadened to determine if there is a broader problem. But that has proved unnecessary, as the scanners have performed well, the post-election audits have found.

The results of the audits are analyzed by the University of Connecticut, the Secretary of the State’s Office and the State Elections Enforcement Commission, and are available to the public. Connecticut has among the strictest audit statutes in the country, which is a good thing.

This year polling places in three local towns were randomly selected for auditing — the New London Science & Technology Magnet High School, Waterford’s Oswegatchie School and the Rose City Senior Center in Norwich.

Statewide, 38 polling places were subject to audits.

The local voting registrars headed up to Hartford with the ballots cast in the selected polling places. They were fed through the state’s high-speed scanners. But for a couple of votes, the results matched. One ballot cast and counted in Waterford — as it should have been by law — did not register on the state scanner because the voter had made check marks for his or her candidate preferences, not filled in the circles as instructed.

There is, however, a gap in the voting audit law that needs addressing. The law only calls for audits of votes recorded at polling places. That means votes tabulated at a central location in the municipality are not subject to audit. And that is usually how absentee ballots are counted. Such was the case for the three local municipalities reviewed.

Due to the pandemic, a record number of absentee ballots were cast in the recent election, accounting for about 28.5% of the vote. The public, and many state lawmakers — and this editorial board — support making absentee voting easier going forward, as it was in this election. As these changes take place, as they should, the legislature should amend the law to require that absentee ballots receive the same audit scrutiny.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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