BOISE, Idaho — As the year winds down, it’s time to put the 2022 election cycle to bed.
To help ensure a smooth conclusion, clerks like Ada County’s Phil McGrane are part of a brand-new process, an election audit created by a new Idaho law.
“These post-election audits are an opportunity for the state to go through and just check our work, make sure that all the clerk's offices who conducted the election, that everything adds up and that everything is accounted for properly," McGrane said. "Most specifically, being able to do a hand count of some of the ballots and compare those hand-counted results to what we reported on election night. So, it's just a validation that everything's working properly."
The audit process selects a sample of small, medium and large Idaho counties. Those counties are chosen randomly and then it’s right into audit action from there.
Ada County was selected in the random draw, so McGrane and his staff got to watch an audit of their work form the Secretary of State’s Office.
“I'm happy to report both the audit in May, as well as the audit in November, did exactly what it's supposed to, and it confirmed that the process is working well,” McGrane said.
So, what did the audit find in Ada County?
“We had a one vote change. So, they audited and hand-counted 1,754 ballots. In that process, there was one ballot where the machine, when it read it, read it is what's called an overvote, meaning there was markings in multiple choices on the same question," McGrane said. "Where the auditors, when they looked at it, they could easily determine voter intent. So, they counted it as a no vote. They were checking the constitutional amendment in this case and so that was the only variance that we saw in the audit. That's a really good indication that things are working as they're supposed to."
McGrane said the new process shows transparency in action, a crucial step to maintaining public trust in elections.
“When you look at it out of 1,700 ballots, right, you have this one change. I think it's a really good sign that the system is working. We always like bringing people in to see the process. That includes the auditors in this case," McGrane said. "So, the Secretary of State brings in a team of auditors to come in to check our work, but they also have members from the Democratic and the Republican parties participating in that process. It's a great validation both for the political parties as well as just the system overall, that things are working the way they're supposed to."
McGrane is in a unique position as Idaho's Secretary of State elect. He got to watch first hand the process he will be on the other side of during the next election cycle. He has eyes open for possible improvements.
“The lens that I look at these things is a little different, especially looking at these audits, knowing that it's going to be a responsibility I'll be taking on here soon, looking at how we can improve the process," McGrane said. "I think there are some things that this year was the first time doing it, so there's a lot of lessons learned. You know, for example, Bonneville County was audited on Saturday just because of the time crunch. I'm hoping this legislative session, we can adjust things a little bit so that clerk's offices don't need to open on a Saturday in order to do these audits. But I really do think the audits were a big success in terms of demonstrating Idaho's election system works well. The county clerks who do this work really hard to make sure that every voters vote counts."
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