As I write this post, the 2012 Presidential race is drawing to a close. I’m listening to President Obama and Governor Romney formally debate for the third and final time before election day.
I’m reminded of how a friend recently asked me if his absentee ballot would actually be counted after he sent it in. In fact, several people have recently asked about their absentee ballot. One said she’d heard the ballots were only counted in a close contest. Another told me he read that the Vote-By-Mail ballots were simply trashed after election day.
It seems there is some level of uncertainty and anxiety surrounding what happens to a vote when using an absentee ballot. This post should clear up things.
Absentee voting, or vote-by-mail, is the process where a voter can cast a ballot without going to a poll location on election day. The ballot can be mailed in or dropped off at the Country Registrar of Voters. Of course, the voter does also have the option to leave the ballot at any local poll location on election day.
In all cases, the ballot is accepted by the Registrar and placed with the other ballots. All will be counted on election night after the polls have closed.
At 8:00 PM on election night, all polls around the county close. Any voters left will complete their ballots, and the poll workers will begin to gather the ballots. Once gathered, the ballots are sealed and wait for a Sheriff deputy to take the ballot back to the Registrar office for tallying. It will take between one and three hours for this process to complete.
While waiting for ballots from the polls to arrive, elections staff can count the absentee ballots. These ballots will have already been received during the previous few weeks and are ready to be counted.
As the Registrar receives an absentee ballot, that ballot is reviewed for an appropriate signature. The envelope is scanned and validated. If the ballot is valid, it will be taken out of the envelope and placed in a tray with other ballots from the same precinct. At this point, the ballot is secured and waits for election night.
Once 8:00 PM hits, the sorted trays of absentee ballots are taken to the “MTS room” in the registrar office. This room is highly secure yet visible to observation. It contains computers on an isolated network, which will be used to count the ballots.
Once the ballots are counted, the totals are transferred to a central computer in a separate facility for storage. (These data are sent later that night to the Secretary of State for unofficial totals.) The counted ballots are returned to the trays and locked in cabinets in the MTS room.
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