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Secretary of State Seeks IT Assistance for Election Audits

In a request for quotation, the California Secretary of State’s Office is seeking “risk-limiting audit support to perform county training, assistance and support” for the state’s 58 counties.

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The state agency charged with serving as California chief elections officer is seeking IT-related assistance from IT vendors that could potentially last through the 2024 presidential contest.

In a request for quotation (RFQ) for IT services released Thursday, the California Secretary of State’s Office (SOS) is calling for “risk-limiting audit support to perform county training, assistance and support for California’s 58 counties for risk-limiting audits.” Per the SOS, a risk-limiting audit is a “method of ensuring that election results match voter selections reflected on paper ballots,” and for those counties that choose to do such an audit, “elections officials review a sample of ballots cast in an election to confirm that the reported results tabulated by the voting system are accurate.” In California, the SOS says on its website, if a risk-limiting audit is done, it must confirm the election results being reported by the voting system are “95 percent likely to be accurate.” Among the takeaways:

  • SOS needs “services, resources, and tools to support a successful implementation of the risk-limiting auditing for any county” in the state that chooses to do risk-limiting auditing, under a pilot program established by Assembly Bill 2125. (The bill also authorized the use of risk-limiting audits “in lieu of the 1 percent manual tally” starting with the March 3, 2020, primary; and required SOS to adopt regulations to “implement and administer” risk-limiting audits.) This would include “training, assistance and support” for election officials in those counties, around “ballot-level comparison audit,” “ballot polling audit,” “batch comparison audit,” and “hybrid audit,” each with a 5 percent risk limit; and “single-phase” and “two-phase” audit. The contractor ultimately chosen can subcontract any area of work delineated in the RFQ’s scope of work — but only up to 50 percent of the work. “The contractor shall provide a safe, secure mechanism to share encrypted files, encrypted source code, and other communications such as encrypted reports,” according to the RFQ.
  • The contractor or contractors selected will have other responsibilities including letting the election official(s) have entry of random seed, the “ballot manifest for all ballots,” results of ballots tabulated, and voters’ choices from manually inspected ballots. Contractor(s) must also identify any inconsistencies among ballot manifest, tabulated results, and “cast vote records”; specify which ballots from the ballot manifest will be inspected; produce and “clearly present” the ballot’s findings; use “risk-limiting audit standards and best practices,” provide in-person or “live webinar tutorial” training; and report monthly to SOS on “training, assistance and support” provided counties. The contractor must also deliver a “final report regarding the activities that took place during the risk-limiting audit pilot, by” Dec. 31, 2023. That would include “lessons learned, county participation statistics” and other relevant data.
  • Mandatory qualifications, skills and experience include at least five years’ “demonstrated experience developing, training, performing and supporting the following audits at a state or local level”: risk-limit audits, ballot-level comparison audit, ballot polling audit and single-phase risk-limiting audit. Respondents must also provide two “client references for whom services have been performed, similar in scope and complexity to the services to be performed” in this contract.
  • The contract’s precise value is not stated. The contract term is anticipated to be May 2022-Dec. 31, 2023, with the option of an extension by the state of up to one year. Questions are due by Wednesday and responses are expected on Friday. Responses are due by 4 p.m. April 8. A notice of intent to award is expected April 15, and the anticipated contract award date is April 22. The contractor chosen must be able to meet the RFQ’s requirements and start work within 10 business days of the anticipated contract award date.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.