Election Security

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​Sacramento County takes election security very seriously.  We strive to adjust our processes to utilize the latest technology while continuing to ensure that we administer elections in accordance with state and federal law.  If you have concerns about election security, or if you would like to learn more about any of the activities mentioned below, please call (916) 875-6451 or email voterinfo@saccounty.net​.  The public is welcome to observe any part of the election process. 


Lifecycle of Your Ballot

1​​​

​​Your ballot is printed.

Ballots are printed and inserted into ballot packets by our print vendor that has met certification requirements by the Secretary of State to produce ballots for the State of California. Ballots are printed using strict requirements, such as proper paper weight and registration of the ballot image on paper. The image contains an election specific tint and watermark designated by the Se​cretary of State for the current election. Printed ballots are inserted into a generic ballot packet and the voter’s name and unique barcode is imprinted onto the outside of the envelope. This complex process requires computer generated databases and insertion machinery because every voter must be sent a ballot that corresponds to their correct precinct and ballot type.​

​​2

Your ballot is mailed.

​In Sacramento County, ballots are automatically mailed to all “active” voters through the United States Postal Service beginning 29 days before Election Day. Addresses of registered voters are updated regularly using information from the National Change of Address database and the Department of Motor Vehicles to ensure ballots are being mailed to current addresses. In addition, election mail is never forwarded. Any ballot packets mailed to voters no longer living at an address are returned to the County and flagged as “inactive” so election mail will not be sent to that voter until they have confirmed their new address.​

​​3

​Vote and return your ballot.

Voted ballots are postage-paid and returned through USPS, Ballot Drop Boxes, in-person at a Vote Center, or may be given to a trusted person to mail or drop off for a voter. Voted ballots are scanned in at USPS and delivered in bulk to Sacramento County Elections on a daily basis.​

4

​We receive your ballot.

Returned ballots are run through an industrial mail sorter that date and time stamps the ballot, compares the barcode on the envelope to data from the voter registration database, and captures the signature image on the envelope.  The mail sorter will also isolate returned envelopes that are too heavy. These will be reviewed manually and if more than one ballot set (two cards) is found inside the envelope, neither ballot will count. 

Only one ballot is counted per active voter record. Prior to signature verification, the ballot is checked against the statewide voter database to ensure the voter has not voted anywhere else in California. ​

​5

​We verify your signature.

The signature from the ballot envelope is compared to the signature on file for the voter from their Voter Registration Form. If the signature matches, the ballot is accepted. Accepted ballots move on to be extracted from their envelopes and then counted in the tabulation process. If the signature does not match, the voter is sent a form to sign and affirm that they are the person who voted their ballot. When the signed form is received, their ballot is accepted and moves on for counting.

6

We open your ballot.

Ballots are removed from envelopes with a high speed envelope opener/extractor. Once the ballot is removed from the envelope it is completely anonymous - there is nothing to link it to the person who voted it. Empty envelopes are sent to one room to be filed and stored. Ballots are moved in teams of two people to the Ballot Counting Room to be tabulated.​

7

​We review for voter intent.

If a voter has over or under voted for a contest, or if intent is unclear, the ballot is sent electronically to an adjudication team that will review and resolve the ballot so that it can be counted. The team will work together to determine which selections the voter intended to mark using a Voter Intent Guide provided by the Secretary of State. The team marks the ballot digitally and a log of their decisions is attached to the ballot.

8

​We check your ballot for damage.

Any damaged ballots that cannot be read by a scanner are sent to a Duplication Team. The ballot will be examined to determine voter intent and recreated by marking a blank ballot. Documentation is kept with information about each duplicated ballot and both the original and duplicated ballots are numbered the same so they can be identified later if necessary. The ballot is then returned to the Ballot Counting Room to be tabulated.

​9

We count your ballot.

​The Ballot Tabulation Room is high security with limited access and is recorded 24 hours a day. Working in teams, staff run the ballots through scanners that read the marks on the ballots that indicate a voter’s choice for candidates and issues, then pass the results to a tabulation computer.​ 

During the certification period, ballots are audited and random selection of precincts are manually tallied to ensure the results reflect how each voter cast their ballot. Findings of the audit are included in the Sacramento County Official Statement of the Vote. 

10

​We report election results.

Ballot tabulation is conducted on a computer located in the Ballot Counting Room. The results from each scanner are sent to the ballot tabulation computer through an isolated secure network that has no ties to any other network or the Internet. Results are printed and downloaded to an external drive so they can be uploaded to the Sacramento County Elections website and reported to the Secretary of State.​

Voter File Security 

  • ​Access to voter data, both in-office and at Vote Centers, is limited to authorized individuals over encrypted connections.  Voter data remains on secured servers and is not stored locally on PCs or other devices. 

  • Authorized users accessing voter data are required to sign confidentiality agreements and security policies.  All agreements and policies are strictly enforced. 

  • Authorized users must use strong passwords that meet complexity requirements enforced by the County.  Passwords are changed frequently to strengthen user credential security. 

  • All local and remote access of voter data occurs over encrypted connections.

  • Voter data is regularly backed up. At all times, servers storing voter data are monitored for intrusion detection and malicious behavior patterns.​  

  • Servers storing voter data use current operating systems and regular security patching is performed to mitigate vulnerabilities as they are discovered. 

Ballot Security

  • Two people are required to be with ballots, both voted and unvoted, at all times.

  • All voted ballots are returned from the Vote Centers each night. No ballots or personal information is ever left at the Vote Centers overnight.

  • All voted ballots are stored in secured, locked cages under 24 hour surveillance.

  • Signature verification between a voter’s returned Vote by Mail ballot envelope and the voter’s registration form is conducted to verify a match for every returned ballot.

  • ​If a voter forgets to sign their return envelope, or their signature does not match, the voter is contacted to correct the issue prior to the certification of the election. ​​

Election Equipment Security 

  • State-mandated Logic & Accuracy Testing is done before and after each election to ensure the accuracy of the voting machines at the Vote Center and our office. 

  • Sacramento County election personnel are certified to work on the voting equipment and all programming of equipment is completed here in Sacramento County.

  • Ballot Printers and Ballot Paper must be secured with a tamper evident seal each night.

  • All voting equipment, by law, have closed connections. The Central Count tabulation machines at our office are not hooked up to anything that can be hacked in to, like the internet.

  • 1% Manual Tally: Under California Election Code, one percent of all precincts in every California County, including Vote by Mail ballots, must be manually tallied to ensure the accuracy of the voting equipment. The public is free to watch this process after Election Day.

  • Canvass: After each election, dozens of staff members go through all of the voted ballots from every Vote Center to reconcile the number of voted ballots and unused ballots (blank ballot stock). 

Learn more about Sacramento County's plan to safeguard the integrity of elections by reading our Election Security and Action Plan​.  
Learn more about how California protects elections by visiting the Secretary of State's website​