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:
2016-01-07 – Voter data breaches – mentions that voter databases are needed as part of election accountability arithmetic, while illustrating why safeguards are needed to prevent misuse.
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.