County conducts Logic and Accuracy testing

From left, County Clark Donna Atwood, Deputy Clerk Michelle Hagans, and county employee Melissa Odoms demonstrate how tabulators are used during a Logic and Accuracy testing demonstration held last week. Photo by Philip A. Janquart
Philip A. Janquart
If you have ever wondered just how secure the ballot counting procedures are in Washington County, it may be interesting to know how it all works. 
 County administrators conducted a Logic and Accuracy test last week ahead of the May 21 primary election, demonstrating security procedures during elections.
 The key to security is the tabulators used at polling places that count the votes and provide a total for each candidate, in each race.
 The tabulators were first used in Washington County during the 2020 Presidential Election. They were manufactured by Election Systems & Software, headquartered in Omaha, Neb.
 “We can’t just use any piece of equipment,” said County Clerk Donna Atwood. “It has to be tested and certified by the State.”
 Each certified tabulator arrives at its respective polling location locked and affixed with a special, numbered seal that corresponds to each location and is only broken by a designated poll worker, usually the poll’s Chief Judge. The seals are reaffixed after the zero tape is run.
 “We have a security sheet so we can keep note of when the tags were put on and when they were taken off, why they were put on and why they were taken off. The date and time all has to be on there,” explained Deputy Clerk Michelle Hagans.
 Jody Keeler, a candidate for Idaho’s District 9 House seat B, was in attendance.
 “So, the people cutting the [security seals] off are from the clerk’s office?” she asked. Hagans responded by explaining that the individuals carrying out that particular procedure are either from the clerk’s office or poll workers.
 “And they receive an oath before we start all this,” she said. “We give an oath to Chief Judges and they give an oath to the poll workers, that they will uphold the laws of the State of Idaho.”
 Atwood added that the poll workers, all 60 of them in Washington County, go through training prior to election day in order to properly carry out voting procedures, proficiently operate the tabulators, and answer any voter questions.
 The tabulators themselves are just that – tabulation machines that are not connected in any way to the internet and can only be accessed using a secret code. They undergo logic and accuracy testing before they go out to polling locations. They are designed to flag voter errors, such as an overvote.
 Voters are given the opportunity to correct any mistakes.
 Once the tabulator turns on, poll workers run a zero report showing all contests and candidates with zero votes on a paper tape. This tape is shown to the first voter of the day at the polling location. The intent is to show that all candidates are starting out with zero votes prior to voting.
 It takes a few minutes to run the report, which is when the seal on the bin containing the ballot box is clipped and removed. Poll workers will unlock the ballot box and show it to the first voter at each polling location to ensure no ballots have been cast.
 With the poll now open, ballots are inserted by voters, with the tabulator recording votes, which are stored on an encrypted thumb drive that is removed after the poll closes. It is securely transported to the courthouse, inserted in a designated computer that is not connected to the internet. The computer reads the encrypted file and the votes are uploaded to the Secretary of State’s secure site.
 The ballot boxes for all tabulators, with the ballots now inside, are locked and secured, and brought to the Washington County Courthouse accompanied by two poll workers. The paper ballots must be stored for five years and the tape report, containing the voter counts for all candidates, must be retained for the same length of time. The chain of custody always consists of two individuals. The two individuals can be from the clerk’s office, poll workers, or Washington County Sheriff’s deputies.
 There are special voting accommodations for voters with disabilities.
 “Poll workers set up what is called the Express Vote,” Hagans explained. “It is a special machine designed for people who are handicapped. So, if you are visually impaired, have a shaky signature and you can’t sign, or if you can’t hear well, it has capabilities for that. It has a special pad that comes off the side and it has Braille on it, as well as large shapes, so you can easily maneuver or visually see what is on there. It also has a way to turn it up, turn it down, make if faster or slower.”
 The Express Ballots are inserted into the same tabulator as all the other ballots. They come from the same company that provides the tabulators. Once the votes are tabulated, the vote totals are cleared and the tabulator turned off for another election. Results are generally available by midnight, sometimes earlier. They are posted on the county website and can be found on the Secretary of State’s website.
 Some people may be intimidated by the process, but Hagans said, “I tell people, be patient with yourself, read the instructions, and then if you have questions, please ask us.
 “We will do the logic and accuracy testing again prior to the November election. Interested persons are welcome to attend,” she said.



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