Everything comes to a halt on Tuesday.
When voting ends at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 8, voting machines stationed around Huntington County will be transported to the Huntington County Courthouse, where a bipartisan team will tabulate the votes that have been cast over the past four weeks.
The responsibility for making sure the votes are tabulated correctly falls at the feet of Huntington County Clerk Kittie Keiffer, who makes sure everyone follows the procedures that guarantee an accurate count.
“We are extremely rigid here,” Keiffer says.
While equipment may differ from county to county, the procedures remain the same across Indiana, she says.
At the polling places, the process is overseen by poll workers who go through training each election, even if they’re experienced — as many of them are.
“Most of the people who are serving as poll workers have served for years,” Keiffer says.
They watch over the voting machines, which have been tested prior to being put into action to make sure no votes remain from the preceding election.
The poll workers scan the identification of each person coming to vote and give the person a printed receipt, explains Pam Fowler, Huntington County voter registration and election deputy. When a voting machine becomes available, the voter hands that receipt to another poll worker who will set up the machine with the ballot corresponding to that voter’s precinct.
The poll worker keeps the receipt so the voter can’t go to another machine and vote again, Fowler says, and activates the machine. The machine keeps track of the number of voters, and that number is matched up against the number of receipts.
If a voter signs in but walks away without voting, the machine number might be one less than the number of receipts, Fowler says, but it should never be more than the number of receipts.
No paper ballots are available.
Each voter is assigned a unique number on the receipt, which helps to guarantee that the ballot of someone who votes early and dies before Election Day can be deleted. The receipt number is walled off from the actual vote, Fowler says, so there’s no way to see how anyone voted.
If someone votes by mail and dies before Election Day, that ballot is also deleted.
The clerk’s office regularly receives updates from the Indiana Department of Health listing local deaths, and follows Indiana law in deleting the ballots of those voters.
“Our machines are like large adding machines,” Fowler says, that can’t do anything except record votes. There are no ports for external drives, phone cords or any other connection, she adds.
Each machine has a card and a tape that registers votes cast. At the end of the day, two poll workers — a Republican inspector and a Democrat judge — will bring those tally cards and tally tapes, along with the voting panels from the machines, to the clerk’s office.
The mail-in ballots will have been loaded into the tally computer in the clerk’s office earlier in the day — but not announced publicly — and the cards from the voting machines are downloaded into the computer as they come in. That computer is used solely for vote tallying.
“Nothing is hooked to the Internet,” Fowler says.
“When we sit down at the tally computer, we have a MicroVote representative (to handle any technical glitches with the system) and a representative of each party, which is the Election Board,” says Keiffer, who is the third member of the board.
MicroVote is the company that supplies the voting machines in Huntington County.
When the tally card is read, the number of votes for each candidate is added to the running total kept by the tally computer.
Because voters no longer vote in separate precincts, winners and losers are not determined until after the last machine has been read. How long that will take on election night depends on when the polls empty out, Fowler says. Anyone in line at 6 p.m. will be allowed to vote, no mater how long that takes, she adds.
After the last card is read, the tally cards and tapes are locked in a cabinet for 24 months, taken out only in the event of a recount. The cabinet has double locks, and it takes a Democrat representative and a Republican representative to unlock that cabinet, she said.
“It’s highly protected,” Keiffer says.
All election equipment is also stored in a locked room, she says, until the next election.