Source: Rhode Island Board of Elections 

On Friday, February 11th, the Rhode Island Board of Election hosted a group of national elections integrity experts to conduct a pilot Risk Limiting Audit (RLA) utilizing a new algorithm designed to improve the efficiency of the RLA process. The pilot was run using ballots cast for the November 2, 2021 Portsmouth special referenda (Question 1). The RLA also served as a refresher for Board of Elections and local Board of Canvassers staff.

“Rhode Island is a leader in the use of Risk Limiting Audits to ensure the integrity of our election results, and we were pleased to partner with national experts to pilot a new algorithm designed to improve the efficiency of the RLA process,” said Robert Rapoza, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Board of Elections. “Results from this pilot RLA will ultimately be published and reviewed by elections experts around the country. We were pleased to help play a part in work to further improve RLAs, considered the ‘gold standard’ of election auditing techniques.”

The pilot RLA took approximately 3-hours to complete and was successful in one round in which 240 ballots (out of 3,814 total ballots cast) were pulled and examined. The risk limit came out to 4.18% which means there is a 95.82% chance that the outcome is correct. The new algorithm would have required half the ballots to have likely achieved the same results.
Along with Board member Bill West and Board of Elections staff the following people participated in the pilot RLA:

  • Oliver Broadrick – Algorithm developer, Graduate Student, George Washington University
  • Poorvi Vora – Computer Science Professor, George Washington University
  • Mark Lindeman – Director, Verified Voting
  • Chrissa LaPorte – Staff, Verified Voting
  • Liz Howard – Senior Counsel, Brennan Center’s Democracy Program
  • Georgina Cannan – Elections Counsel, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on House Administration
  • Filip Zagorski – Professor, Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science, Wroclaw University of Technology, Poland
  • John Marion – Executive Director, Common Cause RI
  • URI VOTES Team members James Houghton & Aaron King
  • Ellen Vadney – Chair of the Portsmouth Board of Canvassers
  • Nick Lima – Cranston Board of Canvassers
  • Lori Anderson – Coventry Board of Canvassers
  • Kerry Nardolillo – Warwick Board of Canvassers
  • Giana Savastano – Woonsocket Board of Canvassers

Rhode Islanders can be assured of the integrity of our elections thanks to our use of paper ballots and our practice of conducting Risk Limiting Audits after every presidential primary and general election. State-of-the-art post-election risk-limiting audits are designed to detect any irregularities large enough to change the reported election outcomes, which may include intentional cyberattacks or something as simple as an unintentional printing or programming error. Although Rhode Island’s voting system is tested thoroughly and publicly prior to each election, risk-limiting audits provide an additional verification of the accuracy of the voting system after the election. Such verification relies heavily on paper ballots, which Rhode Island has utilized to record every vote cast in the state over the past two decades.

Rhode Island is one of only 5 states to conduct a statewide risk-limiting audit, and the first primarily precinct-based voting state to conduct an audit statewide.

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