AB 2824: Election Data Access

Status

AB 2824 passed the Assembly Elections Committee, April 13, 2016. The vote was 5 yes, 1 no, 1 abstention!

The bill died in appropriations committee. Basically, it ran out of time. It was getting some resistance from some registrars, who did not seem to understand it, nor the intent to craft a bill that would not be excessively onerous to their workflow.

If we try to reintroduce a bill later, we might want to include Ray Lutz’s “snapshot protocol” just before the manual tally of 1% of precincts starts. This basically means obtaining copies of all significant documents before the tally starts, beyond the detailed precinct report.

About

AB 2824 (Thurmond), is a bill that would require California counties and the Secretary of State to post their certified statements of the vote on their Internet Web sites in a downloadable spreadsheet format. These reports list how many votes each candidate got in each precinct. This is groundbreaking legislation that would allow any citizen to easily review and check the announced results, and especially, to check the totals for each candidate. This is critical in large counties such as Los Angeles, where there are over 4,000 precincts. Attempting to enter 4,000 numbers for each of 5 candidates would require typing in 20,000 numbers. That’s for one race.

The data is already in the election databases. All that should be required is a few simple commands to generate a complete report, and then transferring the file(s) to the Internet for posting. From there, anybody can download the files, load it into a spreadsheet, write a quick formula to total the columns, and voila, you have a check on the totals across thousands of precincts. Plus, you can write more elaborate formulas to check for other irregularities, precinct by precinct. Publishing election data on the Internet is a comparatively small amount of work that will allow citizens to actually check the results of important elections.

This bill is the successor to AB 813 (Melendez), proposed by Tom Courbat, and championed by Asm. Melendez. It passed with unanimous votes of 7-0, 17-0, 75-0, 4-0, and 33-0, and was signed by the governor in 2013. AB 813 requires the county to post the data 30 days after the election. AB 2824 requires that this happen on election night, and at regular intervals until the elections are certified.

Note: this is exactly the data that stakeholders were screaming for the night of the Iowa Caucuses in 2016. The VRTF has been working for this since 2009. The original proposal is [here]. We now have a second bill introduced! Thanks to Tony Thurmond, the Voting Rights Task Force will get it passed!

The official AB 2824 web page is [here].

Amendments

The bill was amended April 6, 2016. The frequency of the collection of data has been reduced from every 2 hours on election night, and daily after that, to the end of election night and, daily through the first Friday after election day, and, thereafter, weekly until the results are certified.

New York City

New York is already posting detailed election district (precinct) reports. You can find the results at http://vote.nyc.ny.us/html/results/results.shtml. This file for example, lists how many votes each of the democratic candidates received in each election district in the april, 2016 primary election. It includes a breakdown by candidate and by type of ballot: ’emergency’, ‘absentee/military’, ‘federal’, ‘affidavit’. The Board of Elections’ Statement on the Unofficial Nature of Election Night Returns states that The data will be transmitted to the Board and we will make such unofficial results available to the media and the State Board of Elections. The Board will place running totals at the Board’s public hearing room at 42, Broadway, 7th Floor starting at 9pm [election night] and on its website as required by law. The website is http://www.vote.nyc.ny.us.

Research

Secretary Bowen’s office conducted a pilot project into the feasibility of this proposal, in May of 2009. They published a report, along with a collection of statements of vote:

Existing Systems

We believe that every system sold in California is either capable of producing detailed precinct reports in spreadsheet format, or can be easily modified to do so. An exception might be Los Angeles, whose system is complex, in parts – antique, and opaque. They are developing a brand new system to be introduced in 2018.

ES&S
Dominion
Sequoia
Diebold
Hart Intercivic
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