Standard Election Audit to Start in Orange County on Nov. 13

November 10, 2020 Updated: November 12, 2020

SANTA ANA, Calif. (CNS)—Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley will begin an audit on Nov. 13 in search of any errors that may have occurred in the handling of local results, a process he undergoes in every election.

With more than 1.5 million ballots cast on or before Nov. 3, Orange County’s turnout stands at nearly 85 percent. Kelley estimates that turnout may reach a record 87 percent.

“It’s the largest volume in the county’s 131-year history,” Kelley said.

For decades, county elections officials in California have followed elections by auditing 1 percent of precinct results, which means recounting the ballots by hand and checking the outcome to make sure it matches machine-counted results, Kelley said. The audit isn’t required under state law.

Kelley assures voters that it’s a routine process and not a reflection of complaints of vote fraud from President Donald Trump in his race against former Vice President Joe Biden.

“The actual reality is as I’ve been saying … this is a quality-control audit that is done every day” in any industry, Kelley said. “This is something important to make sure the validity of the election is sound and the outcomes are the correct outcomes.”

Kelley said he does it “every election, every single one, and usually nobody pays any attention.”

Cries of election fraud and complaints about longer-than-usual tabulating of votes “is exposing the general lack of knowledge of elections that so many people have,” Kelley said. “If they had an understanding of the complexities and the checks and balances and the lengths the system goes through to assure correct outcomes, all of this would subside.”

Kelley plans to use a “risk-limiting audit,” which uses software to randomly select ballots for election workers to fetch and hand-count. If the manual count results aren’t proportional to the overall machine tallies in a contest, more ballots are pulled from the stacks and counted.

While it’s nearly impossible to have a 100 percent error-free election, Kelley said the auditing is designed to ensure that errors, if any, didn’t affect the outcome of any contests.

It doesn’t detect voter registration fraud or ineligible people on the voter rolls, but election officials have other ways to check that, and anyone can report those concerns to the Orange County district attorney or California’s secretary of state.

Kelley estimates that his office has about 27,600 votes yet to count. The registrar is down to counting same-day registration votes.