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Mon May 14, 2012
Idaho Primary: How Your Ballot Gets Counted
County election headquarters around Idaho are busy places ahead of tomorrow’s primary - especially in Ada County. The state’s most populous county re-did its Election Headquarters after the last Presidential Election. Samantha Wright took a tour to find out how your vote gets counted in Ada County.
“If you look on the ceilings, it looks like a Vegas casino. There’s cameras all over the ceiling, anywhere and everywhere,” says Phil McGrane, the Chief Deputy for the Ada County Clerk. He says the cameras cover every inch of the 20-thousand square foot County Election Headquarters. “There’s 28 cameras that are being displayed on all of these screens and they can see a ballot from the second it enters our facility all the way up to after it’s been counted.”
Along with cameras, there are windows in every room. McGrane says that allows people to see in, but not get too close. On election night, ballots will enter what McGrane calls the Warehouse. “So the ballots enter that back roll-up door, the poll workers drop them off at the door. They kind of snake around through a couple of processes in the room, until they make their way into the Tabulation Room.”
There, seven large counting machines add up the votes. Each is tested before the election. “And what we do is we run ballots that have pre-determined votes on them through the machine so that when we get the results we know it should be the first candidate gets one vote, the second gets two votes, the third candidate gets three votes.”
Once counted, the results go to the Command Center. Only four people have access, to maintain security. Two computers tally the count. “There’s no networking at all in this room, so it’s no internet, nothing, it all has to be manually brought in or brought out, and that’s why no one has to worry about hacking or anything like that.”
Once counted, the ballots go back to the Warehouse, into a locked, floor-to-ceiling, chain-link enclosure, sort of like a super-sized dog-run. McGrane says that’s just one more security layer. “We don’t want anyone raising questions for any reasons, so if it’s easy enough, we’ll provide all the additional layers we can to give the public confidence in the process.”
McGrane says eventually the camera feed will go online, so everyone can watch the count from home. One hundred workers will be at Ada County Headquarters on election night, to make sure the primary goes as smoothly as possible.
Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio