Statisticians are trained experts in data collection, so it's worth paying special attention to the American Statistical Association President's timely letter [PDF] about accurately counting votes in the upcoming national election. President Sallie Keller-McNulty warns that, "[W]e can expect between five to twenty federal elections and dozens of local elections to be ... too close to call." "To resolve close elections" and make sure every vote is accurately counted, election officials must be ready to do "real recounts (cross-checking paper records against official tabulations), not just rereading machine totals" and perform "random audits in all localities."
We couldn't have said it better ourselves. Tragically, millions of votes will be cast on e-voting machines that lack voter verified paper records, and of those that will be, even fewer will use those records during recounts or audits. As the letter points out, and as has long been made painfully obvious in previous elections, merely rereading machine totals is not a "real recount."
The American Statistical Association has offered to provide more information on improving the process of elections. We hope that election officials across the country (as well as legislators) will take them up on the offer.