But what about transparency for audits so that the public can verify the audit, and go further to verify the election based on access to cast vote records and ballot images, and by visiting the appropriate office, the paper ballot sheets themselves? Yes the risk limiting audit does examine a sampled randomly selected set of paper ballots and compare them to the cast vote records. Cast vote records are the digital recording of the vote after the paper ballot sheet has been scanned, turned into a ballot image, and processed for interpretation by machine, and sometimes by human election judges until the voter intent, already presumably verified by the voter is now recorded in both human and machine readable format. That is the format of the cast vote record or CVR. The sum of the cast vote records is the election vote totals for each contest and this is used to determine the winner. Linked here is a briefing I wrote that talks about the need for anonymity of each ballot sheet and each row in a CVR file, and how to get there and what to do if we haven’t got there yet. Once almost all the ballot sheets are anonymous there should be easy access to check these records yourself over the internet – not quite as good as seeing the paper held in front of you, but close.
Colorado’s Audit center has records of which ballots were selected for audit in each county. During the RLA it should be possible to visit that county and see citizen election judges appointed by the parties review the contents of each randomly selected ballot sheet and input a hand interpretation that is transmitted to the Secretary of State office. There these interpretations are compared to the machine interpretation from the voting system and any discrepancies are flagged for research and further auditing. Ideally all the ballot sheets selected for audit will be anonymous, just as every ballot sheet is supposed to be. So you as a member of the public, part of a political campaign, press etc. will be able to watch the manual interpretation process. The link below is to a paper that discusses what Colorado could do to achieve that kind of anonymity for its ballot sheets. Eventually one hopes that Colorado will provide easy access to the anonymous voted ballot copies in image form and CVRs too, by following some of the suggestions in this paper that could lead to adequate anonymity and deliberate delivery of the election evidence to the public: strategies-for-achieving-anonymity-of-voted-ballot-sheets-images-and-cast-vote-records-for-colorado
As of 2012, Colorado is holding back all the voted ballot versions including those that are electronic at county clerk offices until it is too late for citizen involvement to provide any corrections – that means the end of the deadline for the request of a recount. However, certain interested parties (typically political parties) may obtain special access during a recount. After the deadline for a request for recount, or a recount is over, anyone can receive potentially redacted versions of voted ballots using the Colorado Open Records Request (CORA) law. These would be digital pictorial ballot images or cast vote records (CVRs) produced by the tabulator.
Unfortunately the CORA law actually sets up an adversary relationship between requester and custodian, and custodians tend to take the maximum time to respond and use the maximum available flexibility in producing the records if they actually do. CORA also specifies a criterion for anonymity that the records must meet and leaves much up to the custodian in that regard. I hope that in future Colorado’s Title One, the election statute for Colorado’s legislative, state and county district elections will some day include deliberate transparency for voted ballots and other election records such that access is easy and does not require a conversation, a visit or a payment to each of 64 counties.