Students Piloting Statistical Audit of E-Voting Systems

accountingCAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Nov. 20, 2013 – Groundwork will get under way next week at Southeast Missouri State University with a statistical pilot project focused on auditing election outcomes calculated with e-voting machines.

Next week, students will begin to cast ballots using official electronic touch-screen voting machines on loan from Henry M. Adkins & Son, Inc. The machines will be set up in a temporary Election Technology Laboratory located in the Student Government office in the University Center Room 204.

Students will be asked to cast their vote on several issues concerning smart phones; social networking; cable television or Dish Network; the Affordable Care Act; the cost of healthcare; same-sex marriage; and social media’s impact on interpersonal communication, attention span and academic performance.

The project is spearheaded by Jill Young, Southeast instructor of management information systems. The goal of the project, she says, is to devise processes to audit and verify electronic voting election results and to develop statistical, effective post-election audits.

Students will work to prove that election outcomes are accurate and will develop best practices for auditing electronic votes cast during an election.

The study is necessary, according to Young, because Missouri state voting regulations require that all Missouri counties perform post-election audits of electronic voting machines. To this end, counties are required to compare a portion of paper ballot results with electronic results and manually count ballots from at least one precinct. However, Young says studies have indicated that current processes used to audit and verify election results are outdated.

Young’s spring 2014 QM257 “Business Statistics” will use the data to analyze the outcomes and explore various auditing processes while developing their statistical knowledge. Students will develop statistical techniques and use spreadsheets to summarize raw voting data and consider various interpretations of the data. Students will work in small groups to analyze the data and explore auditing processes, Young said. They will then use sampling techniques to audit election results produced manually.

At the end of the spring semester, students will present their findings as part of a final class project, and the top three groups will present their findings at a forum. Missouri election officials will serve as consultants to students and will be invited to participate in the forum.