The University of New Mexico is part of an election integrity effort over 15 years in the making, and many more years to come.
UNM Political Science Professor Wendy Hansen and Professor Emeritus Lonna Atkeson have spearheaded the release of an election assessment tool, along with certified results of this tool.
This election integrity project, completed by the LeRoy Collins Institute at Florida State University, which Atkeson serves as the director of, conducted a first-of-its-kind effort to place postelection auditing data, alongside ballot image data, online for
“The public display of the audit and ballot image data comes at an important time as we gear up for a new, contentious election cycle," Atkeson said. “Public mistrust of our elections is at an all-time high, and we hope that placing these data at voters’ fingertips will give them more confidence in our election process and results.”
Florida State University and Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley partnered with researchers at UNM, Fresno State University, and the Florida State University College of Law Election Law Program. The goal was to provide concrete tools and evidence of election integrity for voters during a growing, tumultuous time.
Post-election audits are used to ensure the accuracy of the vote and are meant as a public check on voting systems. A few counties in the US, like Leon County, Florida, have moved to using a second tabulator to perform their postelection audit. In Leon County, Supervisor Earley and his team, as part of their normal postelection tabulation audit, ran all the ballots through a second vote tabulator and compared the results to the official vote count. The audit determined that Leon County’s election counts were overwhelmingly accurate and reliable, revealing that the 2022 election vote count was 99.9983% accurate for the general election and 99.9985% for the primary.
“This is a groundbreaking audit of all of Leon’s County ballots, one that provides tremendous reassurance in the integrity of our voting process,” Earley said. “We hope other counties and states follow suit, making our elections more transparent and secure while helping to increase trust in our election systems.”
New Mexico has a proud, bolstered reputation when it comes to election integrity. Atkeson began surveying New Mexico voters and poll workers in 2006 with the goal of producing research that would improve election administration in the state. This research on election administration, supported by Maggie Toulouse Oliver (first as County Clerk for Bernalillo County and now as Secretary of State) has helped to inform policy makers and has led to a number of changes in how elections are conducted in New Mexico. In 2008 then Clerk Oliver participated in a pilot study with Atkeson to assist in promulgating postelection audit rules, research directly related to this project.
States and counties across the U.S. vary widely in how they conduct post-election audits. For example, in New Mexico after an election, the tabulation of votes from the machine count is compared to hand-counted ballots in randomly selected precincts across the state to ensure that the tabulating machines counted the votes accurately and that the declared winners are correct.
“At a time when some voters doubt the accuracy of elections, postelection audits can be a powerful tool to reassure the public and especially stakeholders (candidates, election staff, etc.) that the results accurately reflect the will of the people,” Hansen said.
Hansen assisted Atkeson and the many southeast team members, with the help of funding from MIT’s Elections Data and Science Lab and the Florida State University College of Law Election Law Program. Bill Royal, the owner of Bill Royal Creative, and Sachs Media, also helped to create a publicly available, user friendly website.
“It provides opportunities for the election community and the public to look at individual ballot images and specific contests and see when and why discrepancies or problems might occur,” Hansen said.
Public accessibility is an essential part of the project. You can see it for yourself as well at the Leon County Postelection Audit Project.
Established in 1988, the LeRoy Collins Institute is a nonpartisan, statewide policy organization that studies and promotes creative solutions to key private and public issues facing the people of Florida and the nation. The Institute, located in Tallahassee at Florida State University, is affiliated and works in collaboration with the State University System of Florida. Named in honor of former Florida Governor LeRoy Collins, the Institute is governed by a distinguished board of directors. Other board members include executives, local elected officials, and other professionals from throughout the state.