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Risk-Limiting Audits by Stratified Union-Intersection Tests of Elections (SUITE)

by Kellie Ottoboni, Philip B. Stark, Mark Lindeman, and Neal McBurnett

Risk-limiting audits (RLAs) offer a statistical guarantee: if a full manual tally of the paper ballots would show that the reported election outcome is wrong, an RLA has a known minimum chance of leading to a full manual tally. RLAs generally rely on random samples. Stratified sampling---partitioning the population of ballots into disjoint strata and sampling independently from the strata---may simplify logistics or increase efficiency compared to simpler sampling designs, but makes risk calculations harder. We present SUITE, a novel RLA method for stratified samples. SUITE tests all possible partitions of outcome-changing error across strata. For each partition, SUITE combines P-values for each stratum's error into a combined P-value. (SUITE is agnostic about the methods for finding stratum-level P-values.) The combined P-value is maximized over all such partitions. The audit can stop if the maximum combined P-value is less than the risk limit. SUITE is immediately useful in Colorado. Voting systems in some Colorado counties (comprising 98.2% of voters) allow auditors to check how the system interpreted each ballot, which allows efficient ballot-level comparison RLAs. (Other counties use ballot polling, which is less efficient.) Extant approaches to conducting an RLA of a statewide contest would require Colorado to make major procedural changes, or would sacrifice the efficiency of ballot-level comparison. In contrast, SUITE requires little change to Colorado's procedures and is substantially more efficient than a statewide ballot-polling RLA. The two strata comprise ballots cast in counties that can conduct ballot-level comparisons, and the rest. Stratum-level P-values can be found using modifications of ballot-polling and ballot-level comparison, derived here. We provide an open-source reference implementation and exemplar calculations in Jupyter notebooks.

Fisher's combination method illustration

Example Notebook 1

Example Notebook 2


theory and code for RLAs: Colorado and San Francisco







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