Accountability: In governance, accountability means answerability to the public and the obligation to report, explain and be held responsible for consequences of decisions. Accountability cannot exist without proper accounting practices. Elections accounting involves keeping consistent, durable records showing who can vote, who did vote, a vote count that can be authenticated by humans, and proof of intact chain of custody. Election records must reconcile — that is, the sum must equal the parts. If election accounting items are missing or can’t be inspected, the election is not accountable regardless of whether results are signed or certified.
Accountability is not limited to complete, reconcilable records. It also means that public officials can be held responsible for actions, decisions to hire private contractors, and oversight of employees and contractors. Enforcement of accountability can be challenging. Enforcement is not limited to governmental authority; independent watchdog groups, the media, and private citizens can usually achieve some level of enforcement, by calling for it, insisting on it, and taking various actions to improve compliance. Methods to enforce accountability include calling for and implementing inquiries, investigations, and hearings; sanctions, suspension; resignation; impeachment; recall elections, prosecution; vote of no confidence; demand for account-giving or formal explanatory report; media publicity; public testimony, and litigation.
The line between public institutions and private entities blurs when private companies, paid for with public funds, provide election equipment and services. Privatization of public services does not remove the right of the public to hold service providers accountable, though it may remove the means by which to do so.
ITEMS RELATED TO ACCOUNTABILITY:
2016-11-24 – About Recounts -Recounts are one part of election accountability. Provides general information about recounts, how they work, costs, controversies
2016-11-21 – About Audits – Provides general information about audits in the greater context of public integrity and public oversight.
2016-11-18 – Audits or Fraudits? – A concise set of pointers to help citizen observers identify sham audits and faked spot checks.
2016-11-16 – The Brakey Method – A simple, yet incredibly powerful way to enable any person to “do your own recount” or check every ballot to make sure the reported result is true.
2016-11-02 – Ballot Images: a new way to verify that results are true – Shows examples of ballot images, a key part of The Brakey Method to make public elections accountable.
2016-07-19 – What constitutes an election audit – How to do your own reconciliation of election records to determine whether reported results can be substantiated
2016-02-01 – Caucus integrity – Provides a detailed, sourced review of accountability issues with caucuses, including a number of specific examples of accountability breakdowns in the 2012 Republican caucuses in three states
2016-01-07 – Voter data breaches – mentions that voter databases are needed as part of election accountability arithmetic, while illustrating why safeguards are needed to prevent misuse.
2013-11-29 – Elections in the United States – describes a number of examples of weak election accountability in U.S.
2013-11-28 – Elections in Afghanistan – Several issues have reduced accountability in Afghan elections; Difficulty ensuring public safety, violence;; men voting for women; no eligible voter list; 10x as many voter cards as voters so used ink on fingers to prevent double voting
2013-11-26 – Political Money – Both reasonable, accessible costing for election accountability measures, and full transparency for all public expenditures is needed because democracy can not work the public can get reliable confirmation of election results at reasonable cost, and unless we can see how all taxpayers funds are spent.
2013-06-13 – Political Corruption – includes a discussion of the role of accountability, through transparency and enforcement, in deterring corruption
2013-04-23 – Testimony by Tom Courbat before the California Assembly Elections Committee – an example of concise, effective public testimony by a citizen holding local election official accountable for a purchase which removed tranparency from voting system
2008-09-25 (AL) – State tries to charge $28,000 for voter list – ridiculous fees for a public records that is a crucial component of election integrity (should cost only about $25 to produce )
2008/01/07 – New Hampshire election credibility – Video: New Hampshire House Elections Committee attempts to hold voting system vendor LHS Associates accountable, questioning John Silvestro in connection with testimony by Harri Hursti about hacking the system.
2007/01/24 – Wyoming: Sheridan County: Hand recounts prohibited – Provides an example of reduced accountability in Wyoming recounts (prohibiting human validation of machine counts), with better accountability after the election because ballots are open to public records inspections.
2006/11/04 – Texas: Williamson County: ES&S voting machines miscount – Williamson County elections official dodges questions about voting system accountability, assuring that results would be correct despite two miscounts during testing, lack of paper ballots, and installation of uncertified software patch.