The ballot counting process in King county

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

This election, King County Elections staff will open around 800,000 ballots. There are 20 steps to opening each ballot.

Once all ballots in a batch have been opened, unfolded, and inspected, they go into a box labeled with their batch number, and are ready to be scanned and tabulated.

Every step of the process is observed by trained partisan and nonpartisan observers. In this photo, the observer in the orange lanyard is watching a member of our opening team do their work.

You've returned your ballot. Your signature has been verified. Trained staff have opened your ballot and it's ready for tabulation. What IS tabulation?

Tabulation is the process of tallying the votes. Under Washington law, ballots may be prepared for tabulation upon receipt, but tabulation may not begin until after 8pm on Election Day.

Tabulation scanners take images of the front and back of each ballot. None of the scanners is connected to the internet and none are capable of being connected to the internet. Each is tested multiple times before every election.

Scanned images are stored on an air-gapped server accessible by a strictly limited number of staff - not even our Elections Director has access! The tabulation server room is accessed with a badge + fingerprint, is under video surveillance, and has windows for observation.

We post tabulated results after 8pm on Election Night, and then every weekday (and some weekend days) until all ballots have been tabulated.

--Story and photos from King county elections


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