Yes. Any election can be tallied following best practices for elections security and fully audited. STAR Voting is not only transparent and secure when officiated well, but unlike some other voting methods it is also compatible with best practices in auditing and election integrity. Unlike some other alternative voting methods, STAR Voting doesn't require centralized tabulation of ballots.
Is STAR Voting precinct summable?
Yes, in STAR Voting, any subset of ballots can be independently tallied, and then those ballot sets can be added together without changing the winner. This means that if an election was run statewide, any precinct within that state could independently process and tally their own ballots. This also means that vote tabulation can begin and can proceed unobstructed as soon as votes start to come in.
While tallying STAR ballots is a bit more involved than tallying a Choose-One Plurality election, there is no need to wait until all ballots are in hand or until the Scoring Round tally is complete before beginning to tabulate the Automatic Runoff.
On election day, precinct summability is important because it means that preliminary results can be shared as soon as they are available, during the tally, in real time, just like they are with Choose-One Plurality voting. To see how STAR Voting results can update in real-time, click the "show results" button on any live poll on the star.vote website.
For STAR Voting, a precinct sum or tally includes the total score for each candidate and the number of voters who preferred each candidate. Head-to-head pairwise preferences are generally displayed as a preference matrix.
Most voting methods are precinct summable, including Choose-One Plurality voting, Score Voting, Condorcet voting, and Approval voting, but it's worth noting that Ranked Choice Voting (Instant Runoff Voting) is not summable. Due to the fact that not all rankings will ultimately be tallied, in Ranked Choice Voting a preference matrix is not sufficient for summing ballots and election officials must track the preferences on each unique ballot.
A note on Risk-Limiting-Audits and recounts:
For small scale non-governmental elections, full recounts are a simple option. When paired with other election integrity best practices, full recounts are always the most thorough way to verify the integrity of an election, especially if an error or foul-play is expected.
Audits and recounts are an important part of election integrity best practices, and every election should have a plan in place for this, but full recounts can be time consuming and expensive, especially for large, governmental elections. Risk limiting audits for STAR Voting are a sufficiently accurate and reliable method for doing partial recounts as needed to confirm an election's validity.
Risk limiting audits, or (RLA)s, prescribe a number of ballots to be recounted depending on the margin of victory. If a race is won decisively, then an audit will look at a small fraction of ballots, but if the margin is smaller, a larger recount is prescribed. If the RLA finds that the audit results are consistent with the reported election outcome, or if the margin of error is within expected limits, the election is certified. If the evidence from the initial sample does not provide enough evidence to meet the risk limit, the sample size is expanded until it does.
Risk Limiting Audits for STAR Voting can be done using the same tools and similar protocols as are used for plurality voting. For more information on how to conduct a STAR Voting Risk Limiting Audit, click here.
Risk Limiting Audits are possible for most voting methods, including Choose-One Plurality voting, Score Voting, and Approval voting, but it's worth noting that while it they may be technically possible for Ranked Choice Voting (Instant Runoff Voting,) the complexity of the process, the existence of exhausted ballots, and the fact that not all ballot data is counted in RCV may present serious barriers for the real world use of RCV RLA's in practice. Procedures for efficient audits of Single Transferable Vote are still in the research phase.
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