Risk-Limiting Audit

Alameda County Registrar of Voters is conducting a risk-limiting audit for the City Council race in the November 2, 2021 City of Emeryville Special Election.

A risk-limiting audit (RLA) is a method of ensuring that election results match voter selections reflected on paper ballots.

In California, when a risk-limiting audit is used, it must confirm that the election results reported by the voting system are 95% likely to be accurate. Unlike the post-election 1% manual tally traditionally used to confirm election results in California, under a risk-limiting audit every ballot cast in the election—regardless of which precinct it was cast in—has an equal chance of being audited.

Risk-Limiting Audit software provided by the California Secretary of State will be used to conduct the risk-limiting audit. A random seed of at least 20 digits, using a 10-sided die, is entered into the RLA software to randomly select the ballots for the audit.

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters office will use a combination of permanent and temporary full-time staff to create audit boards to conduct a risk-limiting audit. The audit boards locate, retrieve, or observe the location and retrieval of each randomly selected ballot from the appropriate storage box and the audit board verifies the seals on the appropriate storage containers. No less than two audit board members and one observer are present with the ballots during the process to ensure the security, confidentiality, chain of custody and integrity of ballots. Audit board members take an oath to follow all laws and procedures to support the audit.

The audit board examines each randomly selected ballot and interprets the voter markings. After the voter intent determination is made on each ballot, the audit board enters the information into the RLA software. The audit continues until the risk limit is met.

Voter intent is determined by unanimous agreement of the entire audit board. If the audit board does not come to a consensus, the elections official will arbitrate the issue following the guidelines outlined in California Code of Regulations 20123.



Risk-Limiting Audit (RLA) Chain of Custody Procedures

  1. Sealed ballot boxes will be transported to a secure location by Alameda County Registrar of Voters in preparation of the risk-limiting audit. 

  2. Audit board members will verify that the seal numbers on the ballot boxes and logs match. If seals are verified, audit board members will break the seal and go thru the process of removing ballots that are part of the risk-limiting audit. If seals cannot be verified, the audit board will notify the RLA administrator or their designee to investigate.

  3. Audit board members will receive a ballot retrieval list, ballot place holders and removable ballot labels from the RLA administrator.

  4. Audit board members will work together as a team to retrieve ballots from the ballot boxes.

  5. To retrieve ballots, the audit board members will refer to the ballot retrieval list to determine which ballots have been randomly selected for the audit. 

  6. Once the audit board members find the ballot from their retrieval list, the audit board members will pull the ballot out of the batch and replace it with the placeholder that has the same batch name and ballot number. 

  7. The audit board members will then place a removable label (with the batch name and ballot number) on the ballot and place it in a stack.

  8. If more than one ballot is needed from the batch, repeat the above process until all ballots from that ballot box have been retrieved. Once all of the ballots from a ballot box have been retrieved, set the retrieved ballots to the side, place the remaining ballots that were not selected for the audit back into the original ballot box, reseal the box, complete the audit log, and continue to the next ballot box until all ballots on the entire retrieval list have been collected.

  9. Once all ballots subject to the RLA have been retrieved, the audit board members will place all of the ballots retrieved in the order as listed on the ballot retrieval list and begin the risk-limiting audit using the RLA software provided by California Secretary of State.

  10. No less than two members of the audit board are to be with voted ballots at all times. 

  11. After all ballot entries are completed, and the risk limit met, the audit board members will return the ballots to the ballot boxes where they were originally retrieved from, remove the labels and place holders and reseal the ballot containers.