Colorado first state to use algorithm software to safeguard election

Posted at 11:32 PM, Jul 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-18 01:38:43-04
DENVER -- Colorado is taking a bold step to making sure there's no doubt that elections are accurate. 
The timing is a coincidence, said the Secretary of State’s office, as allegations of a rigged election have dogged President Trump from Inauguration Day.
It all comes down to an algorithm that looks like a heavy day in math class, but it’s actually Colorado's election safeguard.
Hilary Rudy is the deputy director of the Colorado Elections Division, which is under the Secretary of State. Post-election audits are her forte, so is accuracy.
"In Colorado, we are concerned that we have accurate, transparent elections,” said Rudy. “A standard post-election is just based on randomly pulling ballots and randomly selecting machines, and so it doesn't tell us with statistical confidence that the election was accurate."
But technology is changing, and Colorado is ahead of the curve. College professors calculated the algorithm and Rudy had to learn these numbers like the back of her hand so that she could train every county clerk. Colorado's election audit process will rely on that algorithm come November.
"Statistics uses math to identify a certain number of ballots to compare a human read of the piece of paper -- the paper ballot -- to the way that the equipment interpreted it," said Rudy.
While it might seem timely, after worries of Russian interference in the recent election, it's actually been in the works since 2009. The software is finally being developed and cyber security experts, like Steve Beaty, say it couldn't come sooner.
"Hackers can get to things, and so we've seen it in almost every aspect of our lives, and there is a valid concern that it could affect our democracy essentially," said Beaty.
It might be new technology, but it's back to the basics: numbers don't lie.
"That helps us give a very strong indication that the electronics were not tampered with or there wasn't anything wrong in the overall chain," said Beaty.
Random samples of ballots are very labor intensive and costly, so the state will also benefit from a less expensive and more reliable process. 
Denver 7 was not able to get the cost of recent post-election audits or the estimated cost in the future. But if it works well, Colorado has offered its algorithm up to other states to make their elections just as accurate.