Journey Through Elections


Current and Past Elections

Election Observer Handbook

A Journey Through Elections

We try our best to describe how elections work, but sometimes words just aren’t enough. On this page, we’re going to try something a little different. To give you a behind-the-scenes look at the process, we’ve photographed every step. From preparing for the election to Election Day and beyond, you’ll see what we do and how we do it. Follow our progress step-by-step in the sections below. Sit back, relax and enjoy your journey through the world of elections!

Preparing for the Election

All the supplies that a polling place needs for an entire day fit conveniently into three cases, with the exception of the eSlate voting machines. The assembly of polling place supplies can begin as soon as an election is called.

Careful attention to detail is necessary—even something that appears insignificant, like a lack of pencils, can cause a huge issue at a polling place.

Election Officers Training

Election Officers are required to take the “Procedures Class,” which teaches the necessary steps to run a polling place. All Election Officers must take this class prior to the election date, even if they already attended the class for a previous election. Election procedures are dynamic and can change for various reasons, such as new legal requirements or new standards to improve efficiency and security.

Logic & Accuracy Testing

Logic & Accuracy (L&A) testing is designed to ensure the integrity of the hardware and software that will be used in the election. Everything, including the paper ballot scan system, must work properly both as an individual unit and as a combined system.

Vote by Mail and Signature Verification

Vote by Mail voting begins 29 days before an election; ballots are accepted until 8 p.m. on Election Day. Once received, the ballots are reviewed by a sorting and signature scanning machine. Registration & Elections Division staff check the machine’s work before the ballots are counted.

Delivering Supplies

As mentioned before, all the materials for a single election fit into three cases: the red supply case, the white Judge’s Booth Controller (JBC) box and the blue ballot box. Once the supplies are ready, Registration & Elections Division staff delivers everything to the polling places the weekend before Election Day. For one election, over 2,100 pieces of equipment were delivered to the polling places.

Mock Election: The Dress Rehearsal

In the week before the election, we conduct a mock election so that everyone can practice their roles. This helps everything run like clockwork, as everyone has had a chance to familiarize themselves with what’s expected before the big day.

Election Day: 6 a.m.

Bright and early at 6 a.m., it’s time to start getting the polling places ready. With only an hour until the polls are opened, Election Officers are responsible for setting the polls up with the eSlates, regular voting booths, forms, signs, seals, locks and logs.

Election Day: Serving the Voters

Greeting voters as they arrive, logging voters on the roster, showing voters how to use the voting machines, explaining voting options (eSlate vs. paper ballot) and helping voters with any issues that may arise are some of the responsibilities that Election Officers undertake throughout the day. Typically lasting about 15 hours, Election Day at the polls is buzzing with activity!

Election Night: Security and Integrity

The polls are closed. The voters are gone. And our Vote Center Representatives are doing the math. They’re accounting for the ballots—those cast electronically, those cast on paper, those dropped off by last-minute Vote by Mail voters, those cast provisionally, the spoiled ballots, the surrendered and unused ballots. All their calculations must match the reports produced by the voting equipment. When they match, they pack up. The packing is filled with security steps. They’re attaching seals and locks and signing logs that verify and bear witness to the condition of each of the security measures while following the two-person integrity rule. This means that ballots can never be left in the hands of one person—there must always be at least one other witness. All of this takes place at the end of a 15-hour day.

Election Night at Tower Road 

What goes up must come down. In our case, what goes out must come back. To ensure that nothing has been compromised, there are layers of security to the process. Electronic ballots cast on the eSlates come back in memory cards in the JBCs; the custody logs and intake procedures are security-intensive. The last step is to break the security seal on the JBC, remove the electronic card (similar to a SIM card on a camera or phone), and send those electronic ballots to the secure, off-limits counting room. All of this is done to protect your vote.

Vote by Mail ballots dropped off at the polls, paper ballots cast at the polls and provisional ballots are all logged and stored in separate areas in the Registration & Elections Division on election night for the count that continues the next day.

The Canvass and the Results

The canvass, or official tallying of the ballots, technically begins when the polls close at 8 p.m. The first results are posted at 8:05 p.m. and can be found on our website. Thereafter, results are published every half hour beginning at 8:30 p.m. The counting, reporting and publishing area is strictly off-limits to everyone but a handful of specifically authorized personnel.

Cleanup and Feedback

The day after the election, we start storing or disassembling everything that was used: ballots (used and unused), equipment, pens, signs, every single item! To verify the accuracy of the electronic and paper ballot systems, we conduct a manual tally of one percent or more of the total votes cast. Dice are rolled to randomly select the precincts to be tallied. The dice are red, white and blue—and 10-sided.


After the election, we review every aspect of the process. In addition to doing an internal retrospective analysis, input from our election observers and Election Officers is requested and valued. Like the Procedures Class, the overall operations of the Elections Office is dynamic and we’re always looking for ways to improve!