Bernoulli Ballot Polling: A Manifest Improvement for Risk-Limiting Audits


Check out my slides on BBP from Voting’19 here.

with Matt Bernhard, J. Alex Halderman, Ron Rivest, and Philip Stark

We present a method and software for ballot-polling risk-limiting audits (RLAs) based on Bernoulli sampling: ballots are included in the sample with probability $p$, independently. Bernoulli sampling has several advantages: (1) it does not require a ballot manifest; (2) it can be conducted independently at different locations, rather than requiring a central authority to select the sample from the whole population of cast ballots or requiring stratified sampling; (3) it can start in polling places on election night, before margins are known. If the reported margins for the 2016 U.S. Presidential election are correct, a Bernoulli ballot-polling audit with a risk limit of 5% and a sampling rate of $p_0=1\%$ would have had at least a 99% probability of confirming the outcome in 42 states. (The other states were more likely to have needed to examine additional ballots.) Logistical and security advantages that auditing in the polling place affords may outweigh the cost of examining more ballots than some other methods might require.