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Auditing Procedures

ABSENTEE VOTING

The FIRST day to request an absentee ballot is December 6, 2023. 

The LAST day to request an absentee ballot is February 27, 2024.

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EARLY VOTING

The early voting period runs from Wednesday, 2/14/24 to Tuesday, 2/27/24 .

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Hamilton County TN Auditing Procedures Overview

1.       Pre-Election:

a.       Republican and Democrat election commission machine technicians create a deck of test ballots marked with a specific pattern of votes for each candidate on the ballot. Our staff creates this test deck each election so that the machines can not know the contents or patterns used in the deck of ballots before testing. Even further, the machines are not aware they are being tested. Our test is conducted with the machine in the same mode as if it were counting votes on Election Day. Republican and Democrat election commission machine technicians set up the machine memory cards each election. Memory cards are securely wiped out of all data before they are re-used in another election. The files containing the results from each election are encrypted using a 256-bit randomized key and changed every election. They are stored at the election commission in a secure, video-monitored, limited-access location.

b.      Republican and Democrat 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 CPA auditing firm, a public machine test is conducted as our Republican and Democrat election commission machine technicians run a duplicate test deck of ballots through all voting machines. The auditors then compare the original machine test tape to the newly created test tape to verify the accuracy of the voting machines. Conducting this second test also shows that the machines consistently read votes correctly.

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

e.        The auditors then witness the Republican and Democrat election commission machine technicians padlock seal compartments of each voting machine with tamper-evident seals and record the unique serialized number of each seal on a log sheet that the auditors maintain.

f.        The voting machines remain locked and sealed in a secure, video-monitored, limited-access location at the election commission. During voting, the machine seals are verified to be intact by Republican and Democrat election officials.

2.       Election Night:

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

b.       When the voting machines are returned from the precincts by Republican and Democratic election officials after the close of polls, the numbered seals affixed to the compartments of each voting machine are verified by the third-party CPA 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 ensures that no tampering with the memory cards or compartments has occurred. If exceptions or irregularities exist, such as a broken or lost numbered seal, this precinct will automatically be placed on the audit list for post-election auditing. Once the seal is verified, the memory card is carried by hand, with multiple witnesses present, to the central count server room and given to the staff member in charge of uploading the results.

c.       As memory cards are being uploaded into the central vote count server by election commission staff with Republican and Democrat witnesses, an auditor sits next to the staff member to verify that the memory cards are successfully uploaded 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 requests periodic reports to be printed from the central count server used in post-election auditing. For example, election summary reports are generated so that the auditors can verify that all of the votes are transferred from the memory cards 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 want to see audited in the post-election audit. Among those, the auditor randomly selects five precincts to be audited and 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 were added to the pool of precincts to be audited.

3.       Post-Election:

a.       The day after the election, the third-party CPA auditing firm begins an audit of the previously selected precincts. 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.

b.       The auditors also randomly select a day and location of early voting, 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 the numbers agree.

c.       After each November election, the election commission must re-run ballots for randomly selected voting precincts on a randomly selected tabulator to ensure the top race results are not off by 1% between the unofficial results and the audit. This audit is required by TCA 2-20-103. Ballots cast by early voting, absentee-by-mail, and Election Day are selected in the audit.

4. Additional Facts:

We have had a contract with Dominion Voting Systems since 2010. Since then, we have had no cause for concern with their voting machines in all audits and tests conducted. Our voting machines and election servers are never able to reach the internet. In addition, no wireless communications capabilities or modems are installed in any voting machine. The EAC has attested that the machines have no built-in wireless communications. In addition, at each stage of the chain of custody process, Republicans and Democrats are present to hold each other accountable and to prevent tampering or cheating. Hamilton County goes a step further by including a third-party CPA auditing firm to hold us accountable. After each election, the auditing firm files a report at our public certification meeting attesting whether they believe the machines counted ballots accurately and if there was anything material enough to cause concern before certifying the election.

Hamilton County utilizes hand-marked paper ballots. The Hamilton County Election Commission has been an outspoken advocate of voter-verifiable paper backups and election audits since at least 1998.

In short, through a combination of legal requirements and policies/procedures, we have developed robust compensating controls that make up for weaknesses at each stage in this complex system. We are confident that we provide the public with fair and accurate elections that meet and exceed the law’s requirements.