Elections Staff run voted ballots through scanners that read the ballots and capture the marked choices. The scanners cannot read the color red, which is why the ovals on the ballot are red. This helps the scanners see voter marks more clearly. Elections Staff use red pens in all rooms where ballots are being processed as an added security measure. Any marks made to a ballot with a red pen are unreadable.
Ballots are scanned by precinct number and then filed and stored in bagged batches in a locked ballot cage under 24-hour surveillance. Each batch is saved with specific identifying information like batch number, scanner number, and number of ballots scanned for auditing and reconciling purposes after the election.
Though the scanners capture ballot data, they do not compile the vote totals. The results are tallied by a tabulation computer that is kept locked in a separate, high security server room. Whenever anyone accesses the tabulation server, it creates a permanent record called an audit log that cannot be removed from the system. The tabulation computer and the ballot scanners are not connected to the internet. Though ballot counting begins before Election Day, no ballot tabulation occurs until the first report is generated at 8 pm on Election Night.
For more information about tabulation and security, visit our Election Security page. For the number of ballots left to count and our next scheduled reporting update, visit our What’s Left to Count? page.