Ballot Processing Center Tour – Extended Version


Hi! I’m Hillary Hall, your Boulder County
Clerk and Recorder. Voting is a sacred privilege and the right of every
American. In the Election Division at the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder’s
Office we make sure every vote counts by securely safeguarding and handling each
ballot throughout the election process. To begin, ballots come back to our ballot
processing center from a variety of drop-off locations such as voter service
and polling centers, 24-hour drop boxes and drive-by drop-off locations. All
ballot boxes are tracked with our national award winning ballot box
tracking system from the moment they leave our facility until they’re
returned. This allows us to establish a clear chain of custody for all ballots.
Ballots that were voted in person are immediately ready for vote processing as
your identity was already checked at the Voter Service Center where you voted.
Most voters vote their mail ballot and return it via 24-hour ballot drop box,
in-person drop-off or by mail. The first step for processing of your ballot
envelope after getting returned to our ballot processing center is at the
ballot envelope reception station. This is where ballot boxes go once they have
been checked in. The ballot boxes are opened and the envelopes are prepared in
trays to be run through our envelope sorting and signature capture machine.
This machine does several things. It sorts envelopes into groups of similar
ballots, for example, all of the Lafayette precincts would be grouped together. Then the machine scans your signature and uses automatic signature verification
software (the same technology the banking industry uses to verify identity), either
compares and verifies your signature against the voter registration record or
sends a captured image of your signature to election judges who are specifically
trained to spot signature discrepancies. These judges have access to your entire
voting record which may contain more signature samples from you.
Once the signatures are compared, if the signature matches, then the ballot
envelope is accepted and the voter is assigned vote credit in the Secretary of
State database. However, if your signature doesn’t pass the verification process
you will get a letter in the mail giving you up to eight days after the election
to resolve the issue to make sure your vote is still counted. Next, after vote
credit is assigned to the voter, the ballot envelopes are moved by bipartisan
teams of election judges in a secure rack up to the second floor of our
ballot processing center. During this process ballots are run through a
specialized machine that allows for easy extraction of your voted ballot, protects
voter anonymity and ensures that no ballots are missed in the process. This
is the stage where your voted ballot is separated from your identifiable
external envelope, thus keeping your vote anonymous. Then election judges flatten
the ballots and visually inspect the ballots to make sure they are marked
properly following the voter instructions and that ballots are free
from damage like coffee spills. The next phase is the scan room. This is where
ballots are put through a digital scanner and votes are captured and
stored in our voting system. If a ballot isn’t properly marked, we have a set of
election judges that will help determine voter intent following the Secretary of
State’s guidelines. An example of an improperly marked
ballot that can cause issues with the scanning equipment is when someone uses
a check mark or an X or something other than a blue or black pen. The bipartisan
election judge team review the ballot and follow standard guidelines to
determine voter intent. The final stage in ballot processing is tallying
results. Up until late on Election Day, votes are stored un-tabulated on our
voting system. This is a standalone computer and is not part of any network
outside of the building. There you have it! A complete tour of our ballot
processing center and the steps it takes to process Boulder County’s ballots.
We work year-round preparing for elections and fine-tuning our processes,
testing and auditing the ballot processing equipment.
I hope this tour gave you a glimpse into the final stages of this work. Thank you
for voting and remember to return your ballot as soon as possible before
Election Day.

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