Elections are only as good as their weakest link and regardless of the voting method used, election integrity is of paramount importance. To ensure secure elections and to uphold (or renew) voter trust in elections, audits and recounts are a key piece of the puzzle.
STAR Voting is fully auditable, doesn't require centralized tabulation
(unlike RCV,) and is fully compatible with best practices for election integrity. Depending on the exact goals and requirements of the audit, recount, partial recount, or risk-limiting-audit there are a number of options that can be considered.
STAR Voting Partial Recounts:
This is ideal if the goal is to verify that the numbers from the precinct level automated count match the numbers from a manual recount. (This same process works for any subset of ballots, it doesn't have to be a full precinct as in the example given below.)
Before beginning the recount:
- Determine the subset of ballots to be recounted.
- Note the total score for each candidate for this precinct from the automated election.
- Note the two candidates who advanced to the runoff in the original/full automated election. These will be the finalists in your partial recount as well.
- Note the number of votes received by each finalist in the runoff as well as the number of "no-preference" runoff votes that had scored both finalists equally for this precinct from the automated election.
Precinct level manual recount:
1. Scoring Round:
Manually tally all the scores given from each ballot from the precinct. (More on the hand counting process and a video demo can be found here
2. Runoff Round: Sort the ballots into three piles - One for each finalist and one pile for no-preference votes. Each ballot counts as a vote for the finalist who was scored higher on that ballot. If both candidates were scored equally that ballot is counted as a vote of no-preference in the runoff. Count the number of ballots in each pile. These are your vote totals for the recount.
Compare the total scores for each candidate and the number of votes for each finalist in the precinct recount with the original/electronic precinct level election results. If your results in the manual count match or are within your margin of error, your election and recount were a success. Preference Matrix Variation:
Alternately, you can tally the total scores for each candidate and then tally the preference votes for every pair of candidates. This will generate a full candidate preference matrix
for the precinct.
The preference matrix method allows you to fully tally all ballots in a subset and extract all possibly relevant ballot data without knowing who the finalists will be or without having all ballots for the election in hand. This is the standard method for elections using automatic tabulation software. This method also allows you to tally election results and report preliminary results in real time before the polls have closed. Automated Variation:
If you do not want to conduct the partial recount manually, just follow the steps above using the software of your choosing. For security and redundancy's sake we recommend using a different vote tally and tabulation method for the recount than was used in the election.
Full Manual Recounts:
This is ideal if you want to do a full hand recount with no software or hardware required.
1. Scoring Round: Manually tally all the scores given from each ballot. (More on the hand counting process and a video demo can be found here.) The two highest scoring candidates are finalists who advance to the automatic runoff round.
2. Runoff Round: Sort the ballots into three piles - One for each finalist and one pile for no-preference votes. Each ballot counts as a vote for the finalist who was scored higher on that ballot. If both candidates were scored equally that ballot is counted as a vote of no-preference in the runoff. Count the number of ballots in each pile. These are your vote totals for the election.
* Note: This same process can be used for a decentralized election tally with either automated or manual tallying. In a decentralized election, the ballots from each precinct are counted on location. In this case each precinct reports their scoring round totals, the election officials determine the two highest scoring candidates overall and then each precinct tallies the runoff and reports their vote totals. The election officials determine the winner.
Risk-Limiting Audits (RLAs):
Risk-Limiting Audits are a more sophisticated method for partial recounts which allows for the same level of accuracy and security with much less work. Risk-Limiting Audits (RLA's) are quickly becoming the gold standard for election security because of their cost effectiveness and accuracy. These factors make RLAs much more likely to be actually implemented than full recounts or other cost-prohibitive and laborious auditing techniques.
STAR Voting is fully compatible with Risk-Limiting Audit protocols. In a STAR RLA there is no need to audit the scoring and runoff rounds separately, you can do it all at once. A standard Plurality voting RLA protocol and calculator such as this open sourced option
can be used to run a STAR Voting RLA, as described in the tutorial here