What happens to your vote? A look at how votes are tallied at the Lubbock County Elections Office

Opening controlling machine to retrieve the votes. (Source: KCBD)
Opening controlling machine to retrieve the votes. (Source: KCBD)
Updated: May. 10, 2018 at 5:56 PM CDT
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Opening controlling machine to retrieve the votes. (Source: KCBD)
Opening controlling machine to retrieve the votes. (Source: KCBD)

LUBBOCK COUNTY, TX (KCBD) - The Lubbock County Elections Office is preparing for another election next week. Ahead of early voting, the office gave KCBD a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes for votes to be tallied once the polls close.

Even with electronic voting machines, Elections Administrator Dorothy Kennedy says it's not as easy as plugging a flash drive in to record votes.

"That would violate federal and state law and there is nobody on this team that would risk going to jail for that," Kennedy said. "We make sure our processes are met and we go through all the steps that are federally and state mandated to do."

Kennedy tells KCBD that since the Help America Vote Act in 2002, the process actually requires more paperwork for poll and election workers.

"There is a lot of paperwork that goes on out in the field with the election workers, not to mention what we have to do, and take care of on our side once those workers bring that equipment back into us," Kennedy said.

With no connection, Internet or otherwise, from the electronic voting machines, once the last voter leaves the one of 36 voting centers across Lubbock County the poll workers much collect the "controlling machines" that house the flash drive with recorded votes. They are locked and then driven to the Elections Office in downtown Lubbock.

Those machines and other equipment are checked in by staff and Lubbock County Sheriff's deputies. Seals and other identifying numbers on that equipment are verified and more paperwork is filled out.

Signatures given by voters are then counted to later match with the numbers of votes cast. Stickers are placed on machines to be signed at each station throughout the office.

Machine seals are checked again before they're opened. Keys only available at the Elections Office then open the machines. More seals are verified, checked and broken to unlock the flash drive.

The open machine also reveals the report indicating how many votes are recorded on the machine. The flash drive is placed in an envelope that is written on the number of votes on the drive.

Staff then writes down the number of votes on the machine. The number is also entered into a spreadsheet. This is one of the procedures required by the office and not mandated by state or federal government.

"There are lots of moving parts but because of all the checks and balances that are there from federal and state law and what we have put in ourselves, that's how we are able to stay on top of all those moving pieces and still be accurate with results coming out," Kennedy said.

The flash drives are then inserted in computers to tally the results.

The process is stopped after half the the voting centers have checked in to see if the number of signatures counted match the number of votes cast. Results are published for early voting, the halfway point and once all county vote centers are recorded. Results are first given to representatives from each race entity before they are given to the public. That way candidates can be notified before the voters.

"Accuracy is the most important thing before we will ever release for speed," Kennedy said. "These candidates and their families and their friends have spent so much money and so much time and energy, so whatever is produced out of this office, they want it to be accurate."

The timing of getting those complete county results can depend on the size of the election, voter turnout and poll workers transporting the machines. The Elections Office works to track those voting centers using a phone banking system.

The other voting machines and materials are collected by county workers and stored with the "controlling machines" in a warehouse for the next election.

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