Today California Secretary of State Debra Bowen began publishing post-election tally reports from counties on the results of their one percent manual counts which are conducted to audit the accuracy of computer vote counts.
California's manual count law is more than four decades old. Basically, a set of ballots are selected at random and hand-counted, in public. The hand-counted results are then compared to the computer-counted results.
What happens if they don't match? That's been a nagging question for a number of years. Fortunately, when Secretary Bowen was a member of the legislature, she authored a bill to require counties to report the results of their manual counts. So far 12 of the state's 58 counties have done so.
California is one of just two states that I know of (the other being Minnesota) that require reporting of post-election audit results. What these audits show is that vote counting is rarely perfect, but that there is also usually a reasonable explanation of why the results may be off by a few votes. You can view those explanations in the reports.
While California law requires counties to report their manual count results to the Secretary of State, it does not require the Secretary of State to publish these reports online. Kudos to Secretary of State Debra Bowen for doing so. We need this kind of transparency in elections to give the public confidence that election results are accurate.