City of Madison outlines precautions taken on Election Day

Published: Oct. 26, 2020 at 7:33 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The City of Madison outlined the precautions they take to ensure vote security Monday ahead of the presidential election next week.

Programming Madison election equipment and designing ballots

The city explained that they have a paper-based voting system with a paper trail.

The Dane County Clerk’s Office designs Madison’s ballots, as well as programming their election equipment. The county clerk also programs memory devices, which are digitally signed each election, for Election Day using a computer within the county clerk’s office that lets voters mark their ballot using ExpressVote and lets tabulators count the vote. The computer is in a standalone room that is secure and only used for ballot design and election coding.

Each tabulator and ExpressVote requires an authentication step before it can be read.

Each ballot is printed from a PDF file and is counted using the same technology used for standardized tests. Each oval on the ballot is reviewed and verified before being printed.

The County Clerk will then mark and test thousands of ballots in a pre-test, which takes several days. Each memory stick used on Election Day and absentee voting is included in the test. The city added that each ballot style and memory stick is tested to make sure they will accurately understand a ballot.

Once the pre-test is over, the County Clerk will seal up the memory stick with tamper-evident seals and hand deliver them to municipal clerks' offices. Each city will also develop a plan for the clerk and municipality’s public equipment test. State law requires that the test, open to the public, is held within 10 days of the election.

The tabulator is a single-purpose voting machine, meaning once a program is installed, it is not possible for a separate device to overwrite that programming. The city clerk’s office also documents the serial numbers used on the seals of each tabulator and ballot cart.

Election Day

The tabulator is plugged in on election morning and will print out a report to verify each location is starting with zero votes counted. The number on the tabulator will be compared to the number of voters who checked into a poll book on at least an hourly basis until the polls close.

Anyone but a candidate on the ballot can sign in as an observer to watch what is happening at a poll.

As the polls close, the city noted that poll workers will verify the number of votes matches the ballots cast again and if they find a discrepancy, they will resolve it before airing the results. They will then print off the results and read them to everyone at the polling place. They can then send the unofficial results to the County Clerk via a modem, which is only programmed to connect to the County Clerk’s Office.

Determining Election Results

The city said that unofficial results from each polling place are encrypted and are delivered to a computer that is separate from the computer used to design ballots. Election results will not be official until they are certified by the Board of Canvassers.

The Dane County Clerk will randomly select wards to audit, as they do after every election,

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