Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT)

Parallel vote tabulations (PVTs), often known as “quick counts”, are an advanced observation technique that has been used for two decades by domestic monitoring groups, around the world to promote the integrity of elections and to detect when election results and/or election-day processes have been manipulated. During a PVT, well trained observers watch the voting and counting processes at specifically selected polling stations – based on a statistical sample – record key information on standardized forms and report their findings (including polling station’s turnout and vote count) to evaluate the overall quality of election-day processes and to project, or verify, official election results based on precise analysis of polling station data, typically within narrow margins of error.

PVT methodology has become increasingly sophisticated over the last 20 years. A cornerstone of this methodology is its use of the science of statistics. Most PVTs today do not involve collecting information from every polling station; rather, data are gathered from a random, representative statistical sample of polling stations. In a PVT, nonpartisan monitors record and report their direct, eye-witness observations; this differs fundamentally from exit polls, which ask voters how they voted and do not witness the nature of proceedings inside a polling place. PVTs thus allow groups to rapidly assemble and report reliable data based on first-hand observation. PVTs also typically incorporate information communication technologies (ICTs) to securely transmit, store and analyze data to enable rapid and accurate analysis and issuance of timely reports on various processes at appropriate points during and immediately following the election day.

PVTs should always be conducted as part of larger observation effort designed to monitor the entire electoral process. Data from the PVT is most valuable when interpreted in the context of the conduct of voting and counting on election day as well as all critical elements of the pre-election period (including qualification of candidates, the conduct of the campaign; accuracy of the voter registry and other factors that can reinforce or negate the credibility of the election). From this perspective a PVT is a component of a larger monitoring effort rather than a stand alone activity.

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