Last week Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota released Recount Principles and Best Practices, a document providing recommendations on key recount matters such as counting methods, transparency, voter intent and challengers. The document is especially welcome as it was produced through the cooperation of election officials and citizen activists and it is the first comprehensive set of best practices for recounts. It compliments CEIMN’s earlier documents on audits and their searchable database of state audit and recount laws.

In addition to the four authors, the report benefitted from review by a blue-ribbon panel of advisors, including election officials, election integrity advocates, journalists, and academics. “Accurate and verifiable elections are essential for our democracy,” said Minnesota Secretary of State Ritchie, one of the reports authors. “This document and its recommendations will improve the way state and local election officials conduct recounts.”

Former Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed brought a unique perspective to his work as an author of the report, having experienced recounts as a local election official, chief state election administrator and as a candidate. In fact his first election to the office of Secretary of State was subject to a recount. “There is nothing more emotionally-charged in the election process than a recount,” observed Reed. “It is an experience that reveals weak links in the election process and tests the strengths and weakness of election officials like nothing else.”

Reed noted three key elements of a successful recount process: integrity, transparency and communication. A recount is the ultimate challenge of the ethics of election officials and the courage of their convictions. Everyone – the candidates, the parties, the media, the public – need to know what is going to happen, when it will happen, why it’s happening and what it means. And the message from all those involved in conducting the recount needs to be communicated consistently. “You all need to be singing from the same song sheet.”

“States must be prepared for close elections, and this document is the blueprint for improving their laws,” said CEIMN founder, Mark Halvorson, who supervised the report. “As a non-partisan organization with recount experience, we were able to pull together a bipartisan team of election officials, from across the country, to collaborate on these recommendations. My hope is that everyone interested in accurate, verifiable and transparent elections will review their recount laws in light of these principles and best practices.”

We hope so too.

We are particularly glad to see this report launched. Verified Voting is proud to have collaborated with CEIMN’s founder Mark Halvorson and other partners on Principles and Best Practices of Post Election Audits, and we know first hand from various collaborations that he is as diligent as they come. We feel this new document fills an essential gap on important matters relating to the process of checking election outcomes. Many thanks to Mark and his collaborators for taking the time to share this expertise.