[E-voting] Report on the 1% Manual Recount for Special Election Nov. 2005 Los Angeles County

Catherine Ansbro cansbro at eircom.net
Fri Jul 28 16:23:43 IST 2006

This is an amazing short paper. The small table at the end displays 
properly if you go to the link. The implications are enormous--it shows 
the weakness of relying on properly carried out audits, since the 
results can be ignored, as happened here.

It's also interesting to note just how inaccurate the computer counts were.



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Report by Judy Alter. Shows that computers sometimes add votes, and miss 
votes, and that the difference between computer and hand count may 
change the results. Also reveals that:

1) When there is a discrepancy they do NOT do a larger audit

2) When there is a discrepancy they do NOT notify the candidate

3) When there is a discrepancy they do NOT inform the citizenry.

Here is the report, also provided in an attachment at the end.

July 18, 2006

By Judy Alter

This report analyzes the manual 1% recount for the Special Election of 
Nov. 2005 in Los Angeles County. The central question I asked is: how 
often does the computer count match the hand count? I found in the two 
parts of the Special Election of Nov. 2005, the 8 initiatives and the129 
local races, that the hand count and computer count matched an average 
of 22%: 28 % of the time in the 496 initiatives (62 precincts times 8) 
and 16% of the time in the 129 local races on that ballot.

*Added and subtracted votes*

After watching the actual recounting process in Norwalk after the 
Primary Elec¬tion on June 6, 2006, I further refined my question about 
what I can learn about the accuracy of the computer vote-counting. When 
people examine a ballot for a mark that indicates a vote, people can 
discern even faint marks. Thus, a logical result from the manual recount 
will be that the people find more votes than when the computer counted 
them. In the recount tallies of the initiatives, I found that the 
computer missed a total of 436 yes votes, 1.3% of 33,863 ballots and 479 
no votes, 1.4% of 33,863 ballots.

A more serious finding is when the 1% manual recount shows votes that 
need to be subtracted from the computer totals. Somehow, in the 
mechanical electronic counting process of the initiatives, the computer 
added 110 yes votes, and 99 no votes. Although these numbers, 110 and 
99, constitute a very small percentage of the votes recounted, the fact 
that computers can add votes not written by a voter is very disturbing. 
In the local races, the people recounting found 643 votes that the 
computer did not count, and 354 votes that the computer added and, thus, 
had to be subtract from the totals.
Changed winners and losers?

By looking only at the raw numbers, what I saw appeared to suggest 
different winners and losers in a few local races. I asked Michael 
Milroy to analyze the 1% manual recount results using tools found on 
Excel. He found 4 contests (out of 129), like the one below, where even 
the 1% manual recount found discrepancies that showed different winners. 
That result should have triggered a larger manual recount of more 
precincts in each contest (but apparently did not). The one percent 
manual recount of precincts that is required by CA election law is too 
small a number to produce a statistically meaningful audit of our 

I asked Deborah Wright, information liaison for the LA County Registrar, 
about what the election officials do with the findings of this 1% manual 
recount. She said they sometimes recount some batches of ballots on 
another scanner when the recount shows high discrepancies. They do not 
notify the candidates nor do they publicize the findings of the recount.

I list, below, the serious discrepancies from the 129 local elections 
for school board, community college board, or water district board, in 
November 2005 election.

-In three contests between 9 to 11 more votes were found by the hand 
count for an individual candidate;

-in 3 contests between 12 to 15 more votes were found by the hand count 
for an individual candidate;

in two contests between 15 to 20 more votes were found by the hand count 
for an individual candidate;

and in one contest 23 more votes were found by the hand count for two 

Said another way, in only 16% of the contests people found no 
differences between the computer count and the hand recount. The hand 
count seems repeatedly to show that the automatic scanner/computer 
counts produce highly inaccurate results.

In his analysis Michael Milroy addressed this question: do the 1% hand 
tally results suggest different winners than do the final election 
returns? (based on the difference between the 1% hand tally votes and 
the 1% computer-count votes).


Candidate /
Measure Ballots
Computer Count Tally
Hand Count
R J Buonocore 110 110
Paul Helzer 111 113
L. Sanchez-Ramirez 131 131
Sonny Santa Ines 76 78
Bill Ste Marie 109 111

The winners in this contest suggested by the 1% tally hand count were
Sanchez-Ramirez, Helzer and Ste. Marie.

The winners suggested by the computer count were
Buonocore, Helzer and Sanchez-Ramirez.

The actual winners, announced in the final returns, were Buonocore,
Helzer and Sanchez-Ramirez.

I focus on the difference between the 1% hand tally and the 1% computer 
count because I don’t think that the 1% hand tally count has much 
predictive value as to who would have won the final results (it’s a 
small sample, and it’s not representative of the entire jurisdiction.

To rectify this situation Michael suggests: “But I agree with you that 
the differences between the 1% hand tally votes and 1% computer count 
votes still warrant further investigation, and a higher percentage 
recount. (And by the way, that’s why I included the number of precincts 
in each contest.) In a contest that includes 15 precincts, a 25% hand 
recount would have involved 4 precincts).”

Michael found three other contests where the 1% hand recount showed 
different winners than the computer count. While the effort to manually 
recount 1% of LA County’s precincts is worthwhile and carried out with 
great care, the election officials do not use the results to examine the 
contests further nor do they publish the results for public scrutiny. I 
only could study and report on these results because I requested them.

Judy Alter
Director of Study California Ballots (Protect CA Ballots)

application/mswordLos Angeles 1% manual count - report (36.4 k)

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