What really happens to your ballot once you have mailed it in?
The 2020 election, is one of the biggest events of the year! And because of that, ClatsopNews has been listening to the community…and have heard a number of comments regarding election integrity, not only in Clatsop County, but across the US. The rumors and questions surrounding the integrity of how ballots are counted are numerous.
From fear of inaccurate signature verifications, to election workers stuffing “extra ballots” into the process or bags of uncounted ballots being hidden in the dark recesses of buildings, the concerns are greater than ever before.
So ClatsopNews decided to connect with the Clatsop County Elections department and inquire about the process and what the voters need to know. Just how safe is the process and how much confidence should we have in the outcome.
Tracie Krevanko, is the County Clerk for Clatsop County who began working for Clatsop County about 3 years ago and brings with her 27 years of experience as an Election clerk for Washington county. Along with one of her assistants, Julia Myers, they will oversee the process for this election.
ClatsopNews was invited, along with other news organizations to observe a “testing” of the ballot counting machine to verify the accuracy of the the ballot final counts.
Here are a few things to understand initially.
- In Oregon, Ballots DO NOT have markings on the outside envelope distinguishing which party the ballots represent. There is no way for an election worker to determine the party affiliation to remove them from the process.
- There are not large numbers of people handling each ballot and calculating the votes manually.
- All ballots are fed thru an automated machine, which has been calibrated many times to assure accuracy and all ballots are counted by automated machine.
- The ballot counting machine is freestanding and not connected to any internet connections, which prohibit any “hacking” abilities.
- Signatures are examined by people who have gone thru training to examine signatures and it is not just your Grandmother or Uncle making a wild guess.
- The ballot boxes are secured to the cement and observed by the city and/or school. They are emptied regularly by a team of people and the ballots are secured in a transporter box before being put in the vehicle.
- All workers sign an oath to uphold election law and not release any information about what votes they observe while opening the ballots or working in the office.
- People of different parties are in the room and no one is left alone with the ballots (open or closed). If you are interested in reading you can access the Vote By Mail Manual at https://sos.oregon.gov/elections/Documents/vbm_manual.pdf. This is what all election offices follow.
- We start opening the ballots at 9:30 on Thursday, October 29th and start scanning the ballots after the test at 10 am on Friday, October 30th.
Now the step by step process:
- Ballots arrive at Clatsop County Elections office.
- Ballots are examined for signature verification against your registration signature on file. The examiners have been trained to review signatures and to look for a variety of things. If the signature is suspect, it then goes to a second individual who will attempt to find other signatures in voter records that could assist in verification. Should that attempt fail, it is then brought to the supervisor’s attention and they again, with a trained eye, see if they can resolve the discrepancy. At this point…if they cannot verify the signature, the Voter will be sent a postcard, informing them they can contact the elections department or sign the postcard and return it to them within 14 days after the election. Their vote will still be counted if received within the 14-day period.
- For those who have had signatures verified, the ballots are brought to the election workers who can open the outside envelope 7 days prior to election day. They remove the ballots, inspect them for scanability, then box them for scanning.
- All ballots are handled by the Election clerk and her assistant administrator, and on election day are put into a stack and placed into the vote counting machine which calculates the ballots at a rate of about 300 ballots per minute. If a ballot is not clearly marked or has another issue, the ballot counting machine can separate it out for further review. Results are then recorded, documented and certified.
Prior to ballots being run thru the machine, there are 4 accuracy tests run by the Elections clerk to ensure the machine is reading correctly.
Visit this link to watch a short video showing the Ballot Counting Machine in action. https://youtu.be/JZpgsfbOBRY
During the “test” that ClatsopNews attended, Elections clerk Krevanko, had a report of how many “pre marked ballots” they were running thru and what the totals were expected to be.
A total of 99 ballots were processed and then a new report was generated with the hopes that the numbers on the calibration report and the report from the test count, agree. They did match perfectly. This calibration will be done 2 more times before election day, and once last time at certification.
After watching the test, and the process, it appears, once the Clatsop County Elections department has possession of your ballot, the citizens of Clatsop County are in good hands and can rest assured that every effort is made to accurately and fairly count each and everyone’s ballot.
If you are interested in observing some of the process on election day, you are welcome to stop by the Guy Boyington Building at 857 Commercial and watch thru a designated area. There is limited room because of Covid-19 and they can have up to 5 observers at a time and all must wear masks and practice social distancing.