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NJ passes groundbreaking election reform legislation

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New Jersey Citizens' Coalition
on HAVA Implementation

January 8, 2008

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

Bill Combats Fraud by Requiring Random, Mandatory Audits of Election

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
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:

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