One Percent Manual Tally

Lynda Roberts, Registrar of Voters, Elections


After election day, officials conduct a hand count of one percent (1%) of all the ballots counted. The purpose of the hand count is to confirm that the machine count is accurate. All races in the election must be included in the hand count. Marin County also hand counts ballots from each machine used in the election. A public notice of the date and time is posted at least five days before the hand count.

Method of Selecting the Random Sample

The hand count is split into two different groups, Vote Center ballots and Vote by Mail ballots. The one percent (1%) of ballots to be counted for each group is drawn at random. The ballots for both groups are selected by the batches counted.

The Registrar picks a batch for each race or machine missing from the random draw.

Selecting the Random Draw

The batches are listed in numerical order by machine and a number is assigned to each one. The numbering starts at 1 and continues until all the batches are numbered. For example, if there are 50 batches in the election, they are numbered 1 through 50.

The following steps are used to select the batches::

  1. The number of batches in the group is multiplied by 1%. The total is how many batches are hand counted.
  2. A random number generator ( is used to select the batches.
    1. The batch number range is entered.
    2. The number of batches needed is entered.
    3. A 10-sided die is rolled.
    4. The “generate” button is clicked as many times as the number on the die.
  3. The random numbers produced are recorded.
  4. The batch ballots linked to that number are retrieved.

Process of the Manual Tally

A Board of four people counts the selected ballots. Each Board has 1 Caller, 1 Watcher, and 2 Tally members. The results for each race are logged on the tally sheet. A Lead confirms the Board count with the machine count.

Preparing to count the ballots

A results report is printed for each batch selected and given to the Lead.

The following is done by the Board for each batch selected:

  1. Count all the ballots in the race.
  2. Check with the Lead that the total ballots in the race match the machine count.
    • If they do not match, the ballots are recounted.
    • If they do not match after recounting, an elections official will review the batch.
  3. Sort the votes for the race by candidate or Yes/No votes, overvotes, and blanks. Each group is sorted in stacks of ten.
  4. Record the batch number and machine name to be counted on the tally sheet. Two sets of tally sheets are used for each race.

Counting the ballots

The following is done for each batch selected:

  1. Starting with the first candidate of the race, the Caller reads the votes out loud.
    • With a short pause in between each stack of ten.
    • After the last vote is read the Caller says “End”.
  2. The Watcher sees that the Caller is saying the correct vote.
  3. The Tally members put a hash mark on their Tally Sheet as the vote is called.
    • Ten votes in one direction and the next ten in a different direction (//// and then \\\\).
  4. The Tally members call out "10", "20", "30", etc. after each ten votes.
    • If the count between the two Tally members is off, they recount the ten.
  5. When the Board has finished counting the votes for a candidate or Yes/No votes, overvotes, and blanks, they give the total to the Lead.
  6. The Lead confirms the Board count matches the machine count.
    • When the counts match,
      • The Lead initials the results report.
      • The Tally members write the total for each candidate in long hand on the tally sheet.
    • If the counts do not match,
      • The ballots are recounted.
    • If the counts do not match after recounting,
      • The Lead notes the difference on the results report.
  7. This process continues until all races in the batch are counted.

Handling Differences in the Tally

If the machine count and the hand count do not match, the ballots will be hand counted again. If the counts do not match after the new hand count of the ballots, the difference is reviewed by an elections official.

  • If a reason for the difference is found, it is noted on the results report.
  • If a reason for the difference is not found, additional steps will be taken to confirm that the count is correct. This may include recounting the ballots on another machine and performing a new hand count.

Completing the Manual Tally

The Lead confirms that the machine count and the hand count results match and that differences have been resolved.

The ballots and results of the manual tally are stored for the required amount of time.

Rev. 11/30/2021