San Bernardino County election officials on Wednesday, Nov. 2, led a behind-the-scenes tour of the ballot processing facility ahead of Election Day, Nov. 8.
Here’s what happens to ballots once they’ve been cast and collected by the county Registrar of Voters:
STEP ONE: When ballots arrive at the Registrar of Voters office in San Bernardino, the return envelopes are first mechanically sorted, with their barcodes scanned and signatures photographed.
STEP TWO: Trained staff then compare the signatures on the return envelopes to those on voters’ registration cards or their Department of Motor Vehicles records.
STEP THREE: Ballots are then taken out of the return envelopes and examined to make sure there are no obvious problems. The return envelopes are then zip-tied through a hole in the envelope. If the zip ties don’t go through, it’s a sign a ballot is still inside one of the envelopes.
STEP FOUR: The ballots are then taken to a more restricted area — staff here have differently colored vests, which shows they’re allowed in this area — where the ballots are fed into sorting machines. The ballots are then scanned at high speed by computers, which look to see that the circles voters fill in to make their choices were properly filled in.
STEP FIVE: When the computer kicks out a ballot that hasn’t been properly filled out, a two-person team looks at each ballot, trying to determine if it’s clear what the voter intended to do. If not, the voter will be contacted directly to help clear things up.
STEP SIX: Finally, the votes are tallied on computers that are not connected to each other, but not to the internet. The computers are wiped clean and the software is freshly installed prior to each election, to erase any possible issues with the computer. Like other rooms where ballots are handled, no one is allowed to be in the tabulation room alone, and it’s monitored by surveillance cameras and has large picture windows for observers to view everything going on inside.