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11/22/2019

Pennsylvania Completes Pilot Post-Election Audits Using Cutting-Edge Security Measure

Harrisburg, PA – Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar announced today that pilot enhanced post-election audits performed this week in Mercer County and Philadelphia provided valuable insight into how these audits can confirm the outcome of elections in Pennsylvania. 

"These state-of-the-art audits will provide Pennsylvania voters with an extra level of confidence in the outcome of elections like the one held earlier this month," Secretary Boockvar said. "These audits complement our existing safeguards and further strengthen the commonwealth's ability to withstand an attack on or challenge to its electoral system."

Pennsylvania is one of the first states in the nation to pioneer pilots of the risk-limiting audit, which is a scientifically designed procedure using statistical methods to confirm whether reported election outcomes are correct and to detect possible interference. Robust post-election audits have been recommended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Senate Select Intelligence Committee, and many other experts as one part of a strong and resilient election infrastructure.

Audits can confirm that the voting systems tabulated the paper ballots accurately enough that a full hand count would produce the same outcome.

County election officials, Department of State staff and election experts from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the University of Michigan, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, the Democracy Fund, VotingWorks, and Verified Voting participated in developing and implementing the pilot audit process using the new paper-based voting systems in Mercer County and Philadelphia.

Both pilots demonstrated how a risk-limiting audit can be used to provide a high-level of confidence and statistical verification that the outcome of the election is accurate. 

On Monday, Mercer County audited the vote on a referendum to amend the state constitution with what is known as Marsy's Law, which would provide crime victims with certain rights.  

"We were extremely pleased and honored to have played a role in this ground-breaking effort by the commonwealth," Mercer County Director of Elections Jeff Greenburg said. "But we couldn't have done it without all of the wonderful people and experts who made their way from different parts of Pennsylvania, the United States and even the world to assist. If our voters could just see the passion and dedication driving these individuals, they would have no doubt we are heading in the right direction when it comes to securing elections in this country."

On Thursday, the Philadelphia audit included review of the vote on the Marsy's Law constitutional amendment, as well as the vote in the Philadelphia mayoral race.

"We were very impressed with the risk-limiting audit. It was statistically superior and easier to conduct than the current statutory 2 percent audit," said Deputy City Commissioner Nick Custodio. "We hope the state replaces the antiquated statutory audit with a risk-limiting audit similar to what we piloted yesterday."

Secretary Boockvar thanked Mercer County and Philadelphia for their dedicated leadership in volunteering to be the first counties in the commonwealth to pilot the risk-limiting audit. "The success of their audit pilots this week gave us valuable information that we can use to develop post-election auditing procedures that advance election security and assure Pennsylvanians that their votes count," she said.

In the last year and a half, the department certified seven new voting systems that provide a paper record, meet the latest standards of security and accessibility, and can be thoroughly audited.  Counties must choose their new voting systems by Dec. 31, 2019, and implement them no later than the 2020 primary election. 

In addition, in Pennsylvania every voting system and paper ballot must include plain text that voters can read to verify their choices before casting their ballot, and every system has successfully completed penetration testing, access control testing and testing to ensure that every access point, software and firmware are protected from tampering. 

Many other important recommendations by national security and cybersecurity experts are in place in Pennsylvania, including mandatory pre-election testing of all voting equipment before every election.

MEDIA CONTACT:   Ellen Lyon, 717-783-1621

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