Elections 101: Election Security - Part 2

Elections 101 has been a weekly series of articles offering a variety of information regarding elections in Iowa and Allamakee County prior to this year’s June 4 Primary Election. The information has been provided courtesy of Allamakee County Auditor and Commissioner of Elections Denise Beyer.

Last week, article #5 of six explained steps taken by all counties in the state of Iowa during both pre-election preparation and testing and the Election Day process to ensure an accurate, safe and secure election. This final article in the series will explain the process after the polls close at 8 p.m. on Election Night, how results are verified when the Auditor reports to the Iowa Secretary of State, and the required Post-Election Audit.

What happens after the polls close at 8:00 p.m.?
If there is a line at 8:00 p.m. at any polling place, any voter in line is allowed to check in and vote. Anyone arriving after 8:00 p.m. cannot be allowed to vote.

Reconciliation of ballots
As stated in last week’s article, at the close of the polls at 8 p.m., the Precinct Election Officials (PEOs) must reconcile all ballot styles. The verified number of each ballot style at the start of the day minus the number used of each ballot style should match the physical count of the remaining unvoted ballots. The number of Declaration of Eligibility slips signed by voters upon check-in should match the number of ballots that were counted by the vote counting equipment.

PEOs are trained on what to consider if there are any differences. For example, spoiled ballots and provisional ballots are “used” but not inserted into the vote counting equipment, so used will not match counted. A spoiled ballot is one that a voter made an error on and requested a new ballot with the first ballot marked “Spoiled” and kept in an envelope. A provisional ballot is a ballot issued to a voter whose eligibility to vote is in question; these ballots are voted and placed in a special envelope marked with the reason for the provisional ballot and considered for counting by the Absentee Board before the canvass.

Tabulating results for county
Last week’s article explained the process the PEOs follow to close the vote counting equipment and print the Election Summary report for their precinct. The Election Summary report is signed by all PEOs at that precinct and placed in the packet of information that is returned to the Auditor’s office. The flash drive with the vote totals is removed from the vote counting equipment, sealed securely as described in last week’s article, and returned to the Auditor’s office.

The Auditor’s office verifies the envelope seal has not been tampered with, unseals the envelope and uploads the results to the election specific laptop. This laptop is only used for elections, is not connected to the internet and adds the results of precincts together as precinct flash drives are received and uploaded. Periodically, the Auditor may print a subtotal report of results and submit them to local news media and post to the county election website, https://allamakeecountyelections.iowa.gov/, and the public Iowa Election reporting site https://electionresults.iowa.gov/IA/Allamakee/121511/ as time allows.

The steps and processes PEOs must complete after closing at 8 p.m. are lengthy and require focus and accuracy. Auditor Beyer says, “I encourage all voters to thank their precinct officials and be patient when awaiting results. Workers arrive at dawn and there is more involved than flipping the lights off at 8 p.m. and calling it a good day.”

The Auditor posts the results online and emails them to newspapers, TV and radio stations as soon as time allows. How long it takes the media outlets to post the Allamakee results is outside the Auditor’s control.

Reporting to Secretary of State’s office
Each county must also report results to the Iowa Secretary of State (SOS) office before going home on Election Day. This may be done periodically as precinct results are received by the Auditor, as time allows. A final report is sent to the SOS after the final precinct is uploaded and the grand total of all precinct votes is verified by the Auditor’s office. The results are sent to the SOS through a secure system with multi-factor authentication.

As a final step, there is communication between the auditor and SOS that confirms the results the SOS is seeing on their end is the same as what was submitted by the Auditor. Once this final communication is complete, the Auditor can go home for the night.

This link - https://electionresults.iowa.gov/IA/Allamakee/121511/ - is for the state website that shows the combined results for all state and federal races, as well as local county races. Results can also be found at the https://allamakeecountyelections.iowa.gov/.

Post Election audit required
Another step required after Election Day to prove the counting accuracy of the voting equipment and uphold the integrity of elections in Iowa is the Post Election Audit. The SOS office randomly selects one precinct from each county the date after the election. The Auditor selects a bipartisan Post Election Audit Board to hand count the first race on the ballot for the randomly selected precinct. This audit must be completed after Election Day but before Noon on the third day after the canvass. The process for this audit is controlled and secure.

The Auditor and the Post Election Audit Board verify the seal number on the bag of voted ballots matches the seal number recorded on Election Night by the PEOs from the chosen precinct. Then the following steps are followed: The Board signs an oath, the Auditor counts the number of ballots in the bag and passes custody to the Audit Board; the Audit Board counts the ballots to verify the number received; the Audit Board divides the ballots into piles based on the candidate voted for in that first race; the piles of ballots are counted for each candidate; the Audit Board totals are compared to the results on the Election Summary which was printed from the vote counting equipment for that precinct on Election Day; the ballots are returned to the Auditor to be counted again before being placed back in the voted ballots bag and resealed; a new seal is placed on the bag and seal number recorded.

Since the inception of the requirement for a Post Election audit, all results of the hand count have matched the machine count from Election Day. This step is the last of many taken in Iowa to prove the accuracy and uphold the integrity of elections in the state of Iowa.

Questions? The Auditor is your trusted source
Anyone with questions regarding any election law or process should call the Allamakee County Auditor’s office at 563-568-3522. The Auditor’s office should be your trusted source for all election questions and information. Auditor Denise Beyer warns against believing everything read on social media and the internet as it may not be true, and she says even TV and radio news can be confusing or misleading as they often talk about what is happening in other states, or issues and topics that do not apply to Iowa elections. Use your County Auditor as your trusted source of all election information.