Components of an RLA
When discussing RLAs, it is important to know and understand the terminology and concepts involved in the process. An understanding of theses terms and concepts can ensure that RLAs serve their intended purpose. Below are the primary concepts and terminology used in RLAs.
The largest chance that the audit will fail to detect and correct an incorrectly reported outcome. For example, Colorado’s first RLA had a risk limit of 9%, which meant there was a 91% chance that the audit would correct an incorrect outcome if the outcome was wrong. The risk limit is often set in administrative rule by the state or county official conducting the audit.
Outcome refers to the winner(s) of a contest, not the vote totals. A wrong outcome is when an originally reported outcome disagrees with a full hand count.
This is the measure used to determine the “closeness” of the election and may factor into the number of ballots to be examined in some forms of RLAs. See below for more information on types of RLAs.
The contest (race) selected for a risk-limiting audit. One or more contest can be selected for auditing but it is the target contest that determines the initial number of ballots selected for audit.
The number of ballots required to be audited before an audit can be stopped. The sample size can be impacted by factors such as the contest selected, the diluted margin and the risk limit. If discrepancies are uncovered during an RLA, the sample size may increase and could lead to a full hand recount.
Cast Vote Record (CVR)
The CVR is the digital representation of all the selections on an individual ballot card that has been scanned and tabulated.
Being able to locate a single ballot is necessary for conducting ballot comparison RLAs. The imprinting process prints a unique and anonymous identifier (usually a series of numbers) on each individual ballot scanned. This ensures the correct ballot can be retrieved and compared to the CVR if that ballot is selected to be audited.
A record cataloging all voted ballots including total quantities and where and how each physical ballot is stored. A ballot manifest is essential for all methods of RLAs and must be created by the local election official, independent of the voting system. The information included in the ballot manifest will depend on how ballots are counted (centrally or at each polling location).
RLAs rely on random sampling to ensure that all ballots are equally likely to be selected. This ensures that the audit process is not subject to manipulation or an inadvertent bias in selecting some ballots over others. The random sampling should not be predictable before the sample is selected and should provide a way to be publicly verified.
Random Seed Number
A random number sequence that is created and used to generate the pseudorandom numbers that guide and determine which ballots are selected to be audited.