Scope of Observable Activities
Election Observer Program


Individuals who are interested in participating in the Election Observation Program are invited to observe and ask questions about the following: 

Prior to Election Day  


  • View the processing of petition signatures

Security Measures and Materials

  • View the card key access log for the Vote by Mail work area and the warehouse
  • View the access logs for the storage vaults for ballots and security seals
  • View the Tally Room where votes are tallied on Election Night
  • Two-Person-Integrity requirements

Ballot and Equipment Preparation  

  • Ballot creation in Dominion’s Election Event Designer (EED)
  • Logic and Accuracy Testing (L&A) of voting machines, including the electronic votes cast on the ICX ballot marking tablets, on-demand printed ballots and the paper ballots recorded on the vote counting system called ImageCast Central (ICC). By law, all voting equipment must be verified for 100% accuracy before it is used in the election.
  • Vote Center supplies assembly and distribution;

Functional Testing of the ICX Ballot Marking Tablets

This process ensures the proper operation of every screen, button, connector and other hardware component of the voting machines. Observers may view the testing of:

  • ICX ballot marking device, including the Accessible Tactile Interface (ATI) which connects with assistive devices

Functional Testing and configuration of Mobile Ballot Printers

This process consists of loading official ballots onto the Dominion Mobile Ballot Printing System by flash drive. Observers may view the testing of:

  • Functionality of full system
  • Printing ballots
  • Scanning of ballots

 Vote Center Representative Training

  • Learn Election Day procedures and observe the mandatory training for Vote Center staff.
  • Visit the Training Lab where Vote Center staff get hands-on practice with the voting equipment.

Vote by Mail Processing

Beginning ten business days prior to Election Day, Election Officials can open the return Vote by Mail envelopes containing voted ballots. The ballots are only opened after each voter’s qualifications and signature on the outside of the envelope has been verified. Envelope verification begins as soon as the voted ballot envelope is received by the Elections Division. Observers may view the:

  • Sorting and scanning of the returned envelopes on the Bluecrest envelope sorting machine known as the Vantage
  • Verification of the signature on each returned Vote by Mail ballot
  • Removal of the voted ballot from the qualified Vote by Mail envelopes
  • Digital scanning of Vote by Mail ballots into the vote counting system called ImageCast Central (ICC)

Vote Centers

Beginning 29 days prior to Election Day, observe voting on the Ballot Marking Tablet or on paper ballots at any of our Vote Centers:

  • 3 Vote Centers will be open Monday, August 16, 2021
  • 5 eleven-day Vote Centers opening on Saturday, September 4, 2021
  • 12 four-day Vote Centers opening on Saturday, September 11, 2021
  • 2 Pop-Up Vote Centers opening on Monday, September 13, 2021 – Tuesday, September 14 

All Vote Centers will be open on the weekend before Election Day from 9am-5pm.  On Election Day, all Vote Centers will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Click here for a complete list of all Vote Centers.

Election Day

At Vote Centers 

  • Visit Vote Centers (6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.)
  • Observe the set-up and/or the closing of the Vote Centers
  • Observe the conduct of the election at any Vote Center

At the Elections Division Office

  • Watch and listen to our Phone Bank operators as they assist voters who call our Voter Hotline
  • Watch and listen to our Vote Center Help & Support (VHS) staff as they provide technical guidance by phone to our Vote Center personnel
  • Observe warehouse staff during the return and processing of voting equipment, and Ballot Boxes after the polls close
  • Vote tabulation and reporting of semi-official results

After Election Day:  The Official Canvass

During the Official Canvass, Election Officials will continue to process ballots, and conduct a 1% manual tally to verify the accuracy of the tally. Observers are encouraged to view the process of: 

  • Verification of voter eligibility for Conditional, Provisional and Vote by Mail ballots
  • Duplication of unreadable paper ballots
  • Processing ballots with write-in votes
  • Resolving ballots with questions about voter intent
  • Ballot reconciliation and accountability
  • Random selection of precincts for the One Percent Manual Tally
  • One Percent Manual Tally
  • Voting equipment return securely to the warehouse.
  • Recount process


We continually improve our methods, procedures and performance.  An observer’s thoughtful participation, feedback, insights or suggestions can provide valuable support.  Some recommendations expressed at past round table meetings with the Chief Elections Officer and the Elections Manager have improved the way we do things, and some remain under consideration for the future.  Not every suggestion is workable, but we want to hear them. We encourage all interested observers to call, write, email, or arrange a meeting with us.

Observer Responsibilities

  • Checking in at each site, whether a Vote Center or central counting site 
  • Wearing an identification badge
  • Maintaining a professional manner while observing the election process
  • Ensuring they do not interfere with the election process
  • Following established county observation rules and policies 

Observer Rights

  • Observe the proceedings at the Vote Centers, including the opening and closing procedures
  • Obtain information from the index of voters maintained in electronic format
  • Make notes and watch election procedures
  • View election-related activities at the central counting site on Election Day
  • View the canvass of the vote activities following the election
  • View Vote by Mail, Provisional and Conditional ballot processing
  • Ask questions of Vote Center representatives or voters at the Vote Centers as long as they do not interfere with the conduct of any part of the voting process
  • Ask questions of supervisors at the central counting site as long as they do not interfere with the conduct of the election procedures
  • Conduct exit polling provided it is conducted 25 feet away from the entrance to the voting room or Vote Center

Observer Limitations

  • Interfere, in the judgment of the elections official, with the conduct of the election
  • Physically handle any voting materials or equipment
  • Directly question the staff performing their work
  • Communicate with voters (within 100 feet of the entrance to a voting room or Vote Center) by encouraging them to vote for or against a person or measure, or regarding the voter’s qualifications to vote
  • Display any election material or wear campaign badges, buttons or apparel
  • Directly challenge a voter – only a member of a precinct board may challenge a voter, based on evidence presented 
  • Wear the uniform of a peace officer, a private guard, or security personnel
  • Carry a fire arm 
  • Bring with them into the polling place or central counting site items such as large bags, or backpacks.
  • Sit at the official worktables or view confidential voter information on any work terminal
  • Move or rearrange tables, chairs or voting booths in the voting room or central counting facility 
  • Talk to or attempt to stop the central counting site workers while they are processing ballots
  • Use the telephones or computers inside voting rooms or in the central counting work area 
  • Make physical contact with election personnel
  • Eat or drink in the voting room or in the central counting work area
  • Assist in operations at any Vote Center or the central counting site 
  • Prevent other observers from viewing materials or an election process
  • Enter secure areas without the explicit permission of the elections official

Elections Official Responsibilities

  • Establish security rules for public observations. Examples include the use of sign-in sheets, identification badges and escorts
  • Maintain the integrity of the administration of the election
  • Determine observer misconduct or interference, or ask an observer who does not follow observation rules to leave the premises
  • Restrict the number of observers permitted in a room to prevent interference with the administration of the election
  • Use discretion in determining a sufficiently close distance for observers to stand from the process they wish to observe
  • Require observers to be quiet inside the observation area
  • Use discretion to determine how and to whom observers may pose questions and challenges during the observation process. Examples include written or verbal, or end-of-day review
  • Prohibit the use of cell phones cameras, audio or video equipment or electronic devices
  • Provide notice to the public of the date, times and locations of election-related activities that may be observed by the public as required by law. For example, election officials are required to provide notice for Vote by Mail ballot processing (48 hours) and the post-election one percent manual tally (five days)

Elections Official Limitations

Election Officials may not delay or interrupt scheduled operations and processes due to the presence of an observer.

Check-in and Arrange Escort

Observers must sign in at reception and receive a visitor’s badge. The badge must be worn at all times while in the elections facility. All observers will be escorted by at least one staff member.

Observer Interference 

Observer activity is limited to witnessing whether proper procedures are followed. Observers may not interfere with the observed process. Touching of election-related materials, equipment or elections staff is not permitted.

Observers may approach sufficiently close to the observed process to determine reasonably whether a challenge of the process is warranted, as further detailed in this handbook. Observers may not directly question the staff performing their work.

The number of observers and the location of the viewing area may be restricted if the elections official determines it interferes with the observed process.

Noise Disturbance

You may talk quietly with your escort, but please move other discussions outside the observation area. Once the observed process has begun, disruptive conversation or comments are prohibited. Cell phones and pagers must be set to silent or turned off. No phone calls are allowed, except in the lobby.

Posing Questions and Challenges

Before and during the observed process, you may quietly ask questions of the escort. You may not directly communicate with any staff member who is engaged in the observed process. Written questions and comments may be submitted to the Elections Manager throughout each process. All challenges must be logged in the manner provided by law. If a challenge unduly impedes or interferes with the work process, challenges shall be discontinued.

 Limited Use of Electronic Equipment in Work Areas

Photographs or videos of a process are permitted with prior permission. No photos or videos may be taken of staff members without prior consent of the individual staff member. The escort will ask for consent on your behalf. No photos or videos may be taken of confidential voter information, including voter signatures. No audio recorders are allowed. Use of a silent electronic device for texting or internet access is permitted.

Special Rules for the Ballot Canvass Work Area

Observers may enter the ballot canvass area only during canvass operations and only in the presence of an escort. Inside the ballot canvass work area, no phone conversation is allowed. Observers may get close enough to observe the information on the workstation, including the computer screen, if it does not interfere with the worker. All questions about content or procedures must be submitted in writing.