New Jersey Passes Groundbreaking Election Reform Legislation

Great News. New Jersey is the first state whose legislature has passed a scientifically-minded vote count auditing bill. As Fritz Scheuren, President of the American Statistical Association states,

"The key contribution of this legislation is to correct a common design flaw in the audit or verification of votes cast that calls for a fixed percent of the precincts to be recounted. The fixed percentage approach is just wrong, wasteful on the one hand and insufficient on the other."

However, despite its improved approach, the NJ audit bill contains some loopholes which could allow NJ's audits to be manipulated; and its language will have to be rewritten eventually because it does not allow for increased efficiency of auditing in the future as voting systems become more auditable.

An even better model vote count audit bill is being offered in the Utah legislature this session which has been reviewed and contributed to by county clerks and election auditing experts alike:

The Utah bill language (above link) contains a new section which permits a two-stage audit. Stage one, would audit all vote counts except for provisional and absentee ballot counts, and stage two, after all provisional and absentee ballots are counted, then takes these new counts into account.

The Utah bill also will include a section requiring public access to and oversight over election records and ballot security procedures as described here:

The final version of the Utah vote count audit bill, after it is drafted by expert legislative legal counsel, will be available soon.


New Jersey Citizens' Coalition on HAVA Implementation


Contact: Renee Steinhagen, HAVA Coalition Coordinator and Executive Director, New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center

NEW JERSEY PASSES GROUNDBREAKING ELECTION REFORM LEGISLATION Bill Combats Fraud by Requiring Random, Mandatory Audits of Election Results

Newark, NJ - Just after 1:00 a.m. this morning, voting on its last bill of the session, the New Jersey General Assembly passed legislation that will require random, mandatory audits of election results designed to detect outcome-reversing miscounts. Once signed by the governor, the provisions will take effect immediately, which will require all absentee ballots in the February primary to be subject to auditing. Once the voter-verifiable paper record is implemented, all ballots will be subject to audit.

The bill, which was sponsored by Senator Nia Gill (D-Essex), is being hailed as model legislation for election integrity. It was designed by the New Jersey Citizens' Coalition on the Implementation of HAVA (Help America Vote Act) with the assistance of a Ph.D. political scientist, experienced election integrity advocates from two states that have election auditing laws, Ph.D. statisticians from the American Statistical Association, and other voting rights advocates, all of whom worked pro bono.

One of the bill's most innovative features is that the margin of victory in a race will determine the extent of the audit. In closer races, more districts will be scrutinized, and the districts to be audited will be chosen at random. The process is transparent, nonpartisan, and completely independent of software. As a result, it provides a certified outcome that citizens can trust. With the passage of this bill, New Jersey is fast becoming a leader in election administration reform.

"This bill increases the transparency, security, and integrity of ballot counting and reporting in New Jersey, and moves us further toward the ultimate goal of fair and inclusive elections," said Renee Steinhagen, Coordinator of the Coalition and Executive Director of New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center.

"This bill marks the beginning of the end of our world of demon-haunted elections. It's the first post-election audit law to require electoral outcomes to be confirmed by a statistical audit, independent of software. This is a model for the nation. Even now the key provisions of this bill are being copied and tailored to meet other states' requirements," said Howard Stanislevic, Computer Network Engineer & Founder, E-Voter Education Project, who also worked on the bill.

Under the new legislation, the Attorney General will appoint an independent professional audit team of at least four members to supervise the audits conducted by election officials. Members will not have potential conflicts of interest (such as employment by the Attorney General, a political party or candidate, or a voting machine company or contractor). At least one member of the team will have verifiable expertise in the field of statistics, and another will have expertise in auditing. The audit team will develop a set of scientifically reasonable assumptions that will determine the size of the initial audit in each race on the ballot in question. Those assumptions will be subject to public comment. The scientific framework will be designed to deliver the statistical power necessary to detect outcome-altering miscounts. If the results of the initial audit raise concerns, then the audit will be expanded until a truly accurate outcome can be determined.

The auditing process will be done by hand. Hand-counted totals of voter-verifiable paper records will be compared to the corresponding electronic vote counts in a minimum of 2% of the election districts in each county in which the audited election appears on the ballot. This procedure requires all counties to share the burden of audits proportional to their populations. Absentee ballots will be divided into audit units approximately equal in size to the average election district in each county in terms of the number of ballots cast, but will not be associated with any particular election district.

Fritz Scheuren, President of the American Statistical Association and one of the conceptual architects of the bill, stated, "The key contribution of this legislation is to correct a common design flaw in the audit or verification of votes cast that calls for a fixed percent of the precincts to be recounted. The fixed percentage approach is just wrong, wasteful on the one hand and insufficient on the other." He added, "The legislation achieves its ends by laying out a flexible process that should work well for all stakeholders. It does not attempt one-size-fits-all conformity. Given this recognition of the need for flexibility, the emphasis on using experts and on full transparency is just right."

For more information, contact Renee Steinhagen, Coordinator of the NJ Citizens' Coalition on the Implementation of HAVA and Executive Director of New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center at: New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center,

The bill is available for immediate download as a PDF at:

Kathy Dopp

The material expressed herein is the informed product of the author Kathy Dopp's fact-finding and investigative efforts. Dopp is a Mathematician, Expert in election audit mathematics and procedures; in exit poll discrepancy analysis; and can be reached at

P.O. Box 680192 Park City, UT 84068
phone 435-658-4657

History of Confidence Election Auditing Development & Overview of Election Auditing Fundamentals

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