Five things to know about ballot counting and recounting in Pennington County
RAPID CITY, S.D. – With Election Day closing in, you may have questions about how ballots are counted, and what happens in the case of a recount. Here are a few things to know about ballot counting and ballot recounting in Pennington County.
How are ballots counted?
“So, we have what’s called a DS850, which is an optical ballot scanner. So, we run those through our scanners on election night and we balance those numbers back to the ballot reconciliation sheet from the precinct so that we know how many people voted. We know how many ballots should be running through the scanner,” Cindy Mohler, Pennington County Auditor said.
How are ballots transported?
Once the polls are closed, the ballot box is sealed shut with a metal seal that prevents someone from opening the box without damaging it. Two poll workers, a democrat and a republican, then transport the ballots to the County Administration Building.
Once they arrive there, the ballots are prepared for the tabulators.
After they are put through the machines, they are put back into a ballot box again and those boxes are sealed.
“People who want to watch the tabulation process can do so down in the Commission Chambers. We have a video feed from our counting center to that room,” Mohler said.
What is a DS850?
According to Election System & Software, the DS850 is the “fastest central scanner in the election industry, capable of processing 300 double-sided 14-inch ballots per minute.” It both continuously scans and sorts ballots with digital image processing.
Some security features of this machine include:
- Physical and System Access Controls – has lockable doors, tamper-evident seals and access codes.
- Audit Logs – Generates a log of all actions and events that has happened on the unit.
- Proprietary Flash Drives – Only accepts certified and approved USB flash drives.
- System Application Controls – Only runs during election events, in the manner intended by election officials performing duties.
- Encryption, Hash Validation and Digital Signatures – all generated data is encrypted and digitally signed.
Are these machines connected to the internet?
According to the South Dakota Secretary of State’s website, tabulating machines are prohibited from being connected to the internet which is stated in South Dakota Codified Law (SDCL) 12-17B-2.
“No automatic tabulating, electronic ballot marking, or election voting equipment system may be connected to the internet.”
“Recounts are stated in statute. It has to be within a certain percentage. That’s usually for a certain race, it’s not the whole entire election,” Mohler said.
In all of these, a written request for a recount to the finance officer is required to initiation the processes. “We had a recount in June. It seems to happen more frequently in the primary,” Mohler said.