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Department of State Begins Risk-Limiting Audit of 2024 Presidential Primary Election

05/02/2024

Harrisburg, PA – Today, the Department of State began Pennsylvania's fourth statewide risk-limiting election audit (RLA), this time for the April 23, 2024, presidential primary.

“Risk-limiting audits have proven to be the highest standard of comprehensive election audits, not just here in Pennsylvania, but across the country," Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt said. “With a high degree of confidence, this RLA process provides a statistically sound, scientific method for confirming that the reported outcome of the audited election is accurate."

Ten Department employees took turns rolling 10-sided dice to deliver the random 20-digit “seed number," which is used to determine which batches of ballots counties will audit over the next several days.

The livestream of the event continues the Shapiro Administration's commitment to transparency in election administration in the Commonwealth.

A random-selection drawing on April 26, also livestreamed, resulted in the selection of the contest for the Democratic nomination for state treasurer for this RLA. During the audit, county officials will hand-tally the randomly selected ballot batches, then compare those vote counts to the original machine counts for the selected race.

Known as a “batch comparison" type of RLA, this pre-certification audit can confirm whether counties accurately tabulated paper ballots so that a full hand count would produce the same reported outcome.

The RLA will be carried out in addition to the 2% statutorily required review that counties must perform after each primary and general election in Pennsylvania. For that review, county officials are required to conduct a statistical recount of a random sample of at least 2% of all ballots cast, or 2,000 ballots, whichever is fewer.

Counties must complete the RLA by May 10, and they must certify all election results to Schmidt by May 13.

HISTORY OF RISK-LIMITING AUDITS IN PA

In 2019, the Department convened a post-election audit workgroup. The workgroup researched, discussed, and experimented with different types of RLAs, and it assisted many counties through pilot RLAs over the course of three years. In its 2020 report, the workgroup – which included multiple county and state election administrators – recommended that Pennsylvania use this batch-comparison type of RLA.

In September 2022, the Department issued a directive instructing counties to conduct a pre-certification RLA after every election, beginning with that year's general election. The April 23, 2024, primary was the fourth election since the directive.

For more information about RLAs, visit the Department's website.

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