KNOW THE LAW, KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
Election integrity cannot be stressed enough. It is the cornerstone of a democracy. Without it, a Republic form of government cannot survive.
Social Media has been alive lately with stories of improprieties involving the recently concluded Primary Election in Payson. Stories of ballot tampering are especially concerning. The right to a “Secret Ballot” is a Constitutionally mandated item. That not only includes no one knowing HOW you voted, but even IF you voted.
In Payson, Gila County controls the election. Ballots are gathered at specified locations, and monitored through the entire process thereafter, from transportation to Globe, to counting, final tabulation and conclusion. No third party is supposed to be able to access the ballots themselves, or the information contained within them.
So, regarding rumors that now abound, about several provisional ballots being jeopardized during the chain of custody, that would be most disturbing. Illegal? Probably. Unethical? ABSOLUTELY!
Below is a portion of an article from The National Conference of State Legislatures, that explains the ‘chain of custody’ as it pertains to ballots, and why what may have occurred locally is so egregious. The source is also referenced at the end so you can read the entire article pertaining to Election Security.
During an Election:
Chain of custody. Election officials have procedural systems to check who has done what, and when. These systems include strict chain-of-custody rules that prevent voting system components from falling out of custody, undetected. For example, when ballots are moved there is often a “chain of custody” requirement where poll workers or officials who are touching ballots are required to log what they did—how many ballots moved from room to room, or were taken to a polling place or post office. Movements of equipment are recorded as well. Procedures such as these allow officials to track election-related materials and provide a chronological record that can be reviewed should a problem or inconsistency arise. Arkansas enacted HB 1792 in 2017 to address chain-of-custody requirements.
Physical security measures. In addition to logging movement of election materials, physical measures exist that keep equipment and election materials safe, such as tamper-proof seals, creating “zero reports” on voting equipment to ensure that no votes were cast prior to the opening of the polls, and officials working in bipartisan teams. See the chapter in the EAC Election Management Guidelines on Physical Security for more information.
Redundancies and backups. Vote totals are backed up on redundant storage devices within voting equipment and e-poll books may be backed up with paper poll books. These built-in redundancies are designed to keep elections running smoothly in case of disasters. Disasters could be natural, such as fires and floods, or cyber disasters, when foreign or domestic bad actors attempt to tamper with election equipment or otherwise disrupt the election. For more on the cyber aspect, see the EAC’s document on Cyber Incident Response Best Practices.
Tampering with voting equipment as a crime. Almost all states list election fraud as a crime (often a felony) and many also specifically criminalize tampering with voting equipment. If an individual is able to tamper with a voting machine, stuff a ballot box, or otherwise cheat, it is a prosecutable offense, often accompanied by hefty fines and jail time. See NCSL’s webpage on State Statutes Prohibiting Tampering With Voting Systems for more information.
Provisional ballots. Provisional ballots, as required by the federal Help America Vote Act, are cast by voters whose eligibility is in question. Provisional ballots serve at least two purposes: to provide a fail-safe option for a voter who otherwise might not be able to vote, and to ensure that voters don’t cast two ballots. If the poll book indicates that a voter already received an absentee ballot and the voter shows up at the polls wanting to vote, he or she would be the asked to vote a provisional ballot. Shortly after Election Day, election officials would check to make sure the voter hadn’t already cast the absentee ballot before opening the provisional ballot envelope and counting the provisional ballot. This is one way to prevent a voter from casting two ballots. See NCSL’s webpage on Provisional Ballots for more information. 
Compliance Audits. Often overshadowed by post-election audits, compliance audits serve as another measure to insure the integrity of election procedures and processes. Compliance audits review the processes and procedures utilized by election officials throughout the election process. A compliance audit could include:
Examining the chain of custody of voted ballots by reviewing signature log
Checking tamper-proof seals and seal logs on voted ballots containers and voting equipment when transporting to and from storage
Comparing the number of votes cast in a precinct to signatures recorded in the precinct poll book. Then documenting and investigating any discrepancies.
The overall goal of a compliance audit is to test the procedures and processes to find systemic issues or failures within the system. If the underlying processes and procedures are found to be secure, it adds further validity and assurance that the result is correct. For additional information, visits NCSLs page on Post-Election Audits.
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