MIT’s summit mostly showcased statistically based analyses. In particular, the approach called a risk-limiting audit (RLA) predominated. Unlike Florida’s push for a process that seeks to verify every vote cast—or get as close as possible—an RLA seeks to examine a relatively small number of randomly drawn ballots to offer a 95 percent assurance that the initial tabulation is correct. It is being piloted and deployed in a half-dozen states, compared to ballot image audits in a smaller number of states and counties.
While the MIT summit’s planners could not have anticipated the Florida Supervisors of Elections’ action when planning their agenda, their embrace of RLAs—a view also being promoted by progressive advocacy groups—reflects a factionalism inside the small but important world where election administrations confront new technologies. At its core, what it means to audit vote counts is being redefined in ways offering more or less precision, accompanied by tools and techniques that may—or may not—be practical in the most controversial contests, those triggering recounts.
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