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Pacifica Elections Vote Counting Procedures

From: http://pacifica.org/elections/ballotcountingprocess.html


Ballots are only transported or handled by neutral or balanced teams of people, never by a person who is alone.

Ballot envelopes and ballots are always sealed in boxes with three signatures across tape that will reveal any attempt at tampering.

A ballot-return quorum check is done by estimating or (if very close) counting unopened envelopes.

If a quorum is not achieved, all ballots are sealed up in boxes again and stored in a secure location during the "close date" extension period.

Depending on space and crowding, there will be at least five "up-close observers" who will be free to walk around among the poll workers to look at ballots and computer screens, etc. (but not talk to poll workers or touch ballots). These "up-close" observers will be selected by lot, but assuring that no more than two will be from any single slate or group. Other observers will remain behind a line or otherwise separated from the count.

At the start of the count, envelopes are opened by teams, which will separate contents so no association can be made between ballots and names on checks or surveys.

Teams put ballots in stacks of 100 and a ballot tracking slip is attached by rubber band and signed by the team members.

Ballot verification numbers (bar codes) are checked by a team that compares each ballot PIN with a secret list of valid numbers, and with a list of already verified numbers on previously checked ballots. Each ballot contains a unique number, but that number was assigned randomly so that nobody knows what voter got what PIN to allow secret votes. Each verified ballot is stamped with an automatic numbering stamp machine so that every ballot can be tracked to know exactly who handled it and who data-entered it etc. The verification team signs the ballot tracking slip.

The data-entry computers will be checked by three people to assure no ballot data files are already present. Three people will load the programs and configuration files (uniquely named for each computer for audit purposes) onto a special folder on each computer.

Ballots are data-entered by teams at each computer, and the stamped number is circled to indicate completion. If the data entry team is not unanimous about a voter's intent, a ballot judge will make a ruling and the ballot number and dispute will be recorded on the computer log at each computer.

Every ballot number stamped on each ballot will also be recorded in the datafile so that any individual ballot can be compared to its electronic record for audit purposes. Each data-entry team will sign the ballot tracking slip for each stack of 100 ballots they handled.

When data-entry is finished, the ballot file of each team is placed on two floppy disks or CD-R disks that are secured separately. Copies of these ballot data files are also made available to others who want to check the tabulation for themselves.

All of the ballot data files are copied (again by three people) onto the computer with the official tabulation program (Choice Plus), and transmitted to the National Elections Supervisor. Choice Plus is a simple program that automatically handles the fractional transfers that a person competent with spread sheet software could do on their own with enough time. This software is used by several non-profits, and the City of Cambridge, MA for city elections.

The unofficial results of the election are announced and posted, and transmitted to the National Elections Supervisor, who will re-run the tabulation to prepare official results.

After a break and clean-up, the process starts over for the next election (staff delegates).

Any complaints about behavior or procedures at a vote count location should be sent to the National Election Supervisor immediately, who will decide after investigation, whether irregularities or problems occurred of sufficient magnitude to impact the election results, and may, at his discretion, order a recount.

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