Auditing Procedures


Hamilton County TN Auditing Procedures Overview

1.       Pre-Election:

a.       Create a deck of test ballots marked with a specific pattern of votes for each candidate on the ballot. The auditors review the test deck to verify the voting pattern for each candidate. This test deck is created each election by our staff and there is no way the machines can know the contents or the patterns used in the test deck of ballots before testing.

b.       Election Commission machine technicians do an initial logic and accuracy test on each voting machine used in the election by inserting the test deck ballots into the machines and ensuring that the machine results tape corresponds with the correct vote pattern for each candidate.

c.       In the presence of a third-party auditing firm, our machine technicians run a duplicate test deck of ballots through all voting machines that will be used in the election. The auditors then compare the original machine results tape to the newly created machine results tape to verify the accuracy of the voting machines by showing they consistently read the votes correctly.

d.       After each machine is determined to be consistently accurate, the vote totals are reset to zero. The auditors then sign off on each machine tape, verifying that all votes were set to zero when the test is completed that day.

e.       After signing the machine tapes and verifying they are all at zero, the auditors then witness the machine technicians seal the compartments of each voting machine and record the unique serialized number of each seal affixed to each voting machine on a log sheet that the auditors maintain.

2.       Election Night

a.       Throughout the night of the election, the third-party auditing firm maintains a presence at the election commission office, performing various auditing tasks.

b.       When the voting machines are returned from the precincts after the close of polls, the numbered seals affixed to the compartments of each voting machine are verified by the auditors to match the numbered seal that was initially recorded during the pre-election audit before the memory cards are removed from the voting machine. This is to ensure no tampering of the memory cards or compartments has occurred. If there are any exceptions or irregularities, such as a broken or lost numbered seal, this precinct will automatically be placed on the audit list for post-election auditing.

c.       As memory cards are being uploaded into the central vote count server by election commission staff, an auditor is sitting next to the staff member to verify the memory cards are being uploaded successfully to the vote count server. They also ensure that the number of precincts reporting after each memory card upload is a correct reflection of the current status of the election. The auditor also requests periodic reports to be printed from the central count server used in post-election auditing. For example, the first 25 precincts that arrive will have an election summary report generated so that the auditors can verify that all of the votes are transferred correctly from the machine memory card to the central count server during the upload process.

d.       During the routine election commission meeting on election night, each commissioner chooses three precincts they would like to see audited in the post-election audit. Among those, the auditor randomly selects five precincts to be audited along with a precinct selected by the Administrator of Election for a total of six precincts to be audited at a minimum.

e.       If any irregularities were observed in machine behavior while the polls were open, they are added to the pool of precincts to be audited.

3.       Post-Election

a.       The day after the election, the third-party auditing firm begins an audit of the pool of precincts that were previously selected. A post-election audit involves a hand count of the number of ballot applications, ballot stubs, and poll book signatures to ensure consistency with the number of votes cast on the machine for that precinct. Auditors also account for all unused ballots to ensure that all ballots issued are documented and present. The auditors also compare all of the machine tally tapes that were printed and signed immediately after the close of polls by Democrats and Republicans to the unofficial vote count uploaded into central vote count server to ensure they match.

b.       The auditors also randomly select a day and location of early voting and do a hand count of the ballot applications and compare that to what our system shows for the number of people who should have cast ballots at that location to ensure they are consistent.

c.       After each November election, the election commission is required to re-run ballots for select voting locations on a random tabulator to ensure the top race results are not off by 1% between the unofficial results and the audit required by TCA 2-20-103. We audit Early Voting by picking an early voting tabulator and re-running those ballots counted in another randomly selected machine. We audit absentees by mail by picking out five random precincts and re-running those precincts ballots in a separate randomly selected machine. We audit election day by picking out the same five precincts as absentee and re-running those precincts ballots in a separate randomly selected machine. In November 2020, this automatic mandatory audit was performed with a 100% vote match between the unofficial and audit results.

We have a contract and have used Dominion Voting Systems since 2010 when they acquired our previous voting machine vendor. Since then, there have been no logic or accuracy issues with their voting machines or software in all audits and tests conducted. Our voting machines and election servers are never connected to any network with the capability of reaching the internet. In addition, no WI-FI capabilities or modems are installed in any voting machine.

Hamilton County utilizes hand-marked paper ballots. The Hamilton County Election Commission have been outspoken believers in hand-marked voter-verifiable paper ballots and robust election audits since 1998.