Chain of Custody

Lynda Roberts, Registrar of Voters, Elections

Procedures for Deployment and Chain of Custody of Precinct Ballots and Precinct Voting Equipment

Background

The election process in the United States and in California depends upon citizens from the community who volunteer to operate polling places so that voters can cast their ballots in their neighborhoods on election day. Poll workers are partners with the Registrar of Voters in conducting elections. Duties of poll workers include: picking up the ballots and voting equipment, setting up the equipment, managing the voting process on election day, and returning the ballots to the central counting place after the polls close. Inspectors or managers of the polls are required to attend a training class before the election. In Marin County, the inspectors pick up the ballots and voting equipment at their training classes during the week before the election.

The public may observe any aspect of the election process. Persons wishing to observe should notify the Registrar of Voters at (415) 473-6401.

In order to provide for the security of the ballots and voting equipment, the Registrar of Voters does the following:

  • Stores all voting equipment, memory cards, numbered seals, and ballots in locked, alarmed rooms, accessible only to designated Elections Department employees. Access badges record time of entry and name of individual entering room.
  • Deputizes poll workers to act as agents of the Registrar of Voters. Poll workers take the oath of office from Article 20, Sec. 3a of the Constitution of the State of California and swear to uphold the laws of the United States and the State of California.
  • Establishes a documented chain of custody of the ballots and equipment. The Registrar of Voters verifies that the chain of custody has not been broken. If there is a break in the chain of custody, the Registrar of Voters takes steps to assure the integrity of the ballots and equipment.
  • Seals the ballots with tamper evident seals and seals the equipment with numbered, tamper-resistant seals before deployment to the poll workers. ROV keeps a log of the seal numbers.
  • Instructs poll workers to check the seals on their equipment to make sure they are not broken.
  • The ROV checks the number on the seal when the equipment is returned to make sure the number is the same as the number on the log for each machine.
  • If seal is broken or if the number on the seal is different from the number on the ROV log when the machine is returned to the election office on election night, the ROV rescans the ballots using a new memory card.

Procedure for Issuing and Deploying Ballots

Inspect and Seal Official Ballots

The ballot printer delivers the ballots in sealed boxes to the Registrar of Voters. The precinct number and quantity of ballots in each box is written on the seal.

Teams of two Elections Department staff open each box and verify that the precinct number and number of ballots in each box are correct.

After the Elections employees have verified the number of ballots and precinct number on the ballots, they reseal the box with a tamper evident seal.

Department staff puts the sealed boxes of ballots into transport bags for each polling place.

Deploy Ballots to Inspectors

Elections Department staff issues the ballots to the inspector of the polls at training classes during the week before the election. When they pick up their ballots, each inspector signs a receipt with the date, precinct number, number of ballots, and oath from Article 20, Sec. 3a of the California Constitution. The oath is administered to all poll workers in class and deputizes them to uphold the laws of the United States and the State of California in performing their duties as poll workers. The Elections Department keeps a copy of the receipt.

Inspectors Check Ballots Before Polls Open

On election day, before the polls open, the inspector opens the box of ballots and records the number of ballots received on the ballot statement on the outside front cover of the precinct roster.

Inspectors Account for Voted and Unvoted Ballots at Close of Polls

At the close of polls, the inspector completes the ballot statement on the roster cover by filling out information on the number of voters who signed the roster, the number of voters from the Accuvote OS machine, the number of provisional ballots cast, the number of spoiled ballots, and the number of unused ballots.

Registrar of Voters Audits the Vote During the Canvass Period

During the canvass period after the election, Elections Department staff rechecks the numbers on the ballot statement and balances the numbers to verify that the sum of the number of voters who voted in the regular manner, the number of provisional ballots cast, the number of spoiled ballots, the number of AutoMark ballots, and the number of unused ballots equals the total number of ballots issued to the inspector.

The number of voters voting from the Accuvote tape is compared with the number of voted ballots that the inspector has reported on the roster ballot statement.

Department staff resolves discrepancies by recounting each category of ballot on the statement by checking the number of votes cast on the Accuvote Optical Scan Machine and/or by contacting the inspector for an explanation, and, in some cases, by rescanning the ballots.

Registrar of Voters Conducts the Manual Tally of Ballots

After all of the precinct ballots have been counted, the Department staff performs a manual tally of the ballots from 1% of the precincts and verifies the count against the precinct summary report. If there is an unexplained discrepancy in the 1% manual tally, the ballots from the precinct are recounted on the Accuvote OS machine programmed with a different memory card than the one used on election day and the ballots are recounted. Additional precincts may be added to the manual tally at the discretion of the Registrar. For the November 7, 2006 General Election, for instance, the Registrar will tally ballots from 3% of the precinct.

Procedure for Issuing and Returning Election Equipment (Optical Scanners)

Registrar of Voters Prepares Equipment for Deployment

Teams of two Elections Department staff insert a memory card programmed by precinct into the optical scanner for each precinct. Each scanner is then tested with test ballots to make sure the precinct number is correct and the machine can read the ballot. New ink cartridges and paper rolls are installed into each machine and tested.

The machine is then sealed with a numbered, unbreakable seal. Department logs the seal number of the voting machine for each precinct.

Department staff puts the voting machines into transport bags for distribution at the training classes. A moving company picks up the equipment and bags from the Civic Center on the day of each training class and delivers it to the class at Four Points Sheraton. This process is supervised by Elections staff.

Registrar of Voters Deputizes Inspectors and Creates Chain of Custody for Equipment

Department staff issues the bags to the inspectors of the polls at their classes during the week before the election. When go to their class, each chief inspector signs a class attendance/supply receipt form printed with the date and precinct number. One copy of the form is kept by the Registrar of Voters and the other copy by the poll worker to show the Elections staff when they pick up their supplies. After class, inspectors show their copy of the supply receipt form to the ROV to pick up their supplies and sign a log when they have picked up their equipment. The oath from Article 20, Sec. 3a of the California Constitution is administered to all poll workers in class and deputizes them to uphold the laws of the United States and the State of California in performing their duties as poll workers.

Inspectors Verify That They Have the Correct Equipment for Their Precinct

The chief inspectors verify that they have the OS machine for the correct precinct and that the seal is unbroken. They are instructed to notify the ROV if the seal is broken. If the seal is broken, the ROV issues a new, sealed machine to the inspector.

Inspectors Set up Machine and Print Zero Tape Before Polls Open

Inspectors place the machine on the ballot box and print a pre-election "zero" tape. The chief inspector and clerk assisting verify that there are only zeros on the tape, sign the tape, leave it attached to the printer, and lock the printer compartment of the machine.

Inspectors Account for Votes at Close of Polls and Post Results Tapes at Precinct

After the polls close, poll workers record the number of votes from the machine on the ballot statement on the cover of the roster.

Poll workers print out two results tapes and sign one copy which is returned to the Election Office. The second copy is posted outside the door to the polling place where the public can see it.

Inspectors Return Voting Equipment to Registrar of Voters

The chief inspector and one other poll worker return the OS machine to their assigned receiving centers where they are checked in and signed for by the receiving center captain. From the receiving center, the machines are returned to the election office by Marin County Sheriff's deputies accompanied by one Elections staff person and checked in at the Registrar of Voters' Office.

Registrar of Voters Checks in the Equipment and Inspects the Seals for Breakage

Seal numbers are checked off as the machines are returned. If a seal is broken on any of the OS machines, the ballots are immediately rescanned using a different memory card than the one used in the election. Elections staff also calls the inspector to find out why the seal was broken.

Registrar of Voters Checks the Results Tape Against the Precinct Report

During the canvass, the results tape from the OS machine is used to verify that the number of voters reported on the tape matches the number on the Statement of Vote for each precinct.

Rev. 3/11/07