Election Security

At Lane County Elections everything we do is guided by a set of values that matter equally; we use the acronym FASTER to define these values….FASTER stands for Fair, Accessible, Secure, Transparent, Equitable, and Reliable
 
We encourage you to read on to learn more about how we conduct elections, and to rely on Lane County Elections as the trusted source for reliable and accurate election and voter registration information.

Tentative Ballot Processing Schedule

8-Step Mail Ballot Processing Guide

Life Cycle of a Ballot

Ballot Processing 101 Videos

Livestream Link

In-Person Observation 

Authorized individuals may visit the County Clerk's office in person to observe the receiving and counting of votes, petition signature verification process, or the recount process.  To observe the receiving and counting of votes, you must be authorized by an officer or local affiliate of a political party, a candidate or the county clerk. For signature verification of petitions, the county clerk must authorize the observation, and for recounts, the affected candidate, or an elector authorized by each major or minor political party may authorize the observation. The authorization must be made in writing and each observer must sign an observer agreement form. The county clerk shall permit only so many persons as observers as will not interfere with the process.  Since space is limited, it is important to work with your authorizing entity on scheduling. 

Preparing for an Election
Software Programming
Software programming begins by gathering election-specific information received from the Secretary of State’s office, participating districts, candidates, petitioners, and other trusted partners and entering it into various software programs.

We enter these election-specific details, including offices up for election, candidates for those offices, terms for each office, and office boundaries into Oregon’s Centralized Voter Registration and Election Management system (OCVR). OCVR is a system used by all Oregon counties to maintain a single shared list of Oregon’s registered voters and to administer elections.

Lane County Elections then uploads the election-specific information from OCVR into our voting system software to design and lay out the ballot.

Ballot Design
The content of the ballot, including which races appear and their order, is dictated by federal, state, and local laws.

Good ballot design requires accurate data entry of election specifics, considerations of legibility, and detailed content proofing to ensure the accuracy of all contests on the ballot. This process is complex because it often involves multiple measures, races, and candidates on a large number of ballot types.

Because there are 66 precincts in Lane County, there are at least 66 different ballot types for a general election. For primary elections, a different ballot type is produced for each major party as well as each precinct. Creating different ballots for Republican, Democratic, and Non-Partisan voters in the primary triples the number of ballot types created in a typical general election. Before ballots are printed and mailed to voters, each ballot type is exactingly proofread by teams of two election workers.

After ballots are designed and proofed, a file containing the final ballot definitions is imported into the ballot tallying software system.
 
Equipment Testing
State law requires the equipment used to record, tabulate, and report votes to be tested prior to, and after, every election. To meet this requirement, Logic and Accuracy Tests (LATs) are performed on the ballot tally equipment twice before the election, and once after the election and prior to certification.

The LATs are a documented assessment of the tally system’s ability to consistently produce accurate results of voter choices. Staff conduct each test, and a representative from each major political party is invited to observe and sign off on the process.

Prior to the test, election workers prepare a set of test ballots that includes every ballot type. The test ballots are marked in a pattern that includes votes for every candidate in every race including write-ins, "yes" and "no" on all measures, overvotes, and undervotes. The total votes for each contest from these hand-marked ballots are tallied and are the known, expected results that are compared to the results from the tally system.

The same set of test ballots isused in all three LATs; they are scanned and their results are tabulated by the tally system and compared to the expected results. After each test, the staff conducting the test, and the party representatives, sign a Public Logic and Accuracy Testing Certification document verifying that all required testing was completed in a satisfactory manner.

After all ballots are counted, a post-election audit takes place. The Secretary of State randomly selects paper ballots to be audited; the selected ballots are hand-tallied and compared to reports produced by the vote tally system.

Ballot Delivery and Return
Ballot Delivery to USPS
Once printed, ballots are inserted into envelopes, marked with an intelligent mail barcode, packaged in trays, and placed on pallets. Once all ballots are inserted, they are transferred in a secure, locked truck to the United States Postal Service facility in Springfield. Lane County Elections officials, and the postal inspector, are present when the ballot shipment arrives in order to both unlock the transport vehicle and ensure the correct quantity of ballots are delivered. The mail ballots are entered into the post office's mail tracking system and sorted into routes for delivery to Lane County voters. Because an intelligent mail barcode is printed on each envelope, Lane County Elections can monitor the delivery of outgoing ballots and ensure that each voter’s ballot is delivered timely.

Ballot Delivery to Voters
Ballots are mailed to voters between 20 and 18 days before Election Day. All “active” voters are automatically sent a ballot.

Voters are encouraged to visit oregonvotes.gov to make sure their address is current. The deadline to make changes to a voter record, and have a ballot delivered by mail, is five days before Election Day. After that, a voter must visit Lane County Elections to obtain a ballot.

Return of Ballots to Lane County Elections
A voted ballot may be returned through USPS or any other mail delivery service a voter chooses, or by dropping it off at any official dropsite in Oregon. Lane County Elections offers 21 24-hour ballot dropsites, available throughout the county.

Ballots must be returned by 8 p.m. Election Day or postmarked by Election Day in order to count. If dropping off in person, keep this in mind: if it’s 8:00, you’re too late, 7:59:59, you’re fine!

Bipartisan teams of elections staff pick up ballots from both the USPS and dropsites. When picked up, voted ballots are placed in clear plastic totes, the totes are sealed, and a chain of custody log is completed at the pickup location. The team then returns the sealed totes to the Elections office for processing.

Returned Ballot Processing
Room Security Practices
  • All ballot processing rooms are secured by key cards and video-monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • From 60 days before an election to 30 days after an election, ballot processing rooms are only accessible when two key cards are presented.
  • Every election worker in ballot processing rooms must wear an identification badge, and party affiliation lanyard.
  • All activities in rooms where ballots are processed can be witnessed by the public via a 24-hour livestream that is available as soon as dropsites open.
Ballot Receiving
Upon receipt of voted ballots at Lane County Elections, a bipartisan team of election workers verifies the chain of custody documentation and remove the seals from the secured totes. The ballot reception team updates a tracking document, the totes are tagged to identify their source, and then they are moved into the secure Sorter Room.

Ballot Sorting & Signature Verification
Working on ballots from one location at a time, election workers transfer ballots from the clear totes to mail trays, orienting the envelopes in the same direction.

Ballots are then sorted by dropsite location. The high-speed sorter reads the barcode on the envelope and captures an image of the signature side of the ballot envelope. The sorter software compares the barcode data to data from OCVR.

Every captured signature image is compared to the voter’s registration card signature using automated signature verification (ASV) software. ASV detects signature characteristics that are indistinguishable to the human eye, analyzing signatures by comparing geometric shapes, fragments, and trajectories.

There are three possible outcomes on the sorter:
  • If there is no discrepancy with the barcode and the signature matches the voter’s registration record signature, the high-speed ballot sorter will sort envelopes into batches that are placed in green mail trays
  • If the ASV software does not match the ballot envelope signature to the voter’s registration card signature, or the envelope is unsigned, the envelope is outstacked into a yellow mail tray for review by Elections staff
  • If there is a discrepancy with the barcode (e.g., unreadable), or the voter has returned an original envelope after a replacement ballot has been issued, or the ballot has been flagged as an alternative format ballot (e.g. large print) the ballot envelope is outstacked into a red mail tray
When a ballot is sorted into a yellow mail tray, it means the signature was not matched by ASV and that the signature needs to be reviewed by an election worker. Election workers are trained by both the Oregon Secretary of State’s office and Lane County Elections to verify signatures. This first human review, the Tier 1 review, considers only the most recent signature on the voter’s record.

Signatures that remain unmatched after tier 1 review are reviewed by a second election worker, with elevated credentials, in a tier 2 review. At a tier 2 review, all signatures available in the voter’s record are considered.
Party affiliation is not considered when signatures are verified.

When a signature remains challenged after ASV, tier 1 and tier 2 reviews, a letter is mailed to the voter advising them of the challenge and what they need to do to cure the challenge and have their vote count. Voters have until 21 days after the election to cure a discrepancy and have their ballot counted.

Deconstruction and Reconciliation 
Deconstruction is the process of separating the voted ballot from the return envelope, flattening the ballot, and reviewing it in preparation for counting.

Sorter Room staff put together a green tray of accepted ballot envelopes, an empty cardboard ballot transport box and a tray header.

The batch information, including the number of envelopes in the tray, is entered into a ballot reconciliation log at this time. The ballot reconciliation log and tray header are used to track the number of ballots in each batch throughout the entire process.

Bipartisan deconstruction teams then collect a green tray, along with its matching ballot box and tray header and begin their work. When all deconstruction team members are present, they:
  • Enter their team information on the tray header form
  • Distribute the ballot envelopes between the team with voter information face down
  • Separate the ballot from the envelope (secrecy sleeves are no longer used)
  • Monitor for two ballots in one envelope, empty envelopes, and damaged ballots
  • Outstack any troubled ballot envelopes into red mail trays for review by election staff
  • Fish a zip tie through empty envelopes
  • Unfold ballots
  • Review the ballots for tears, damage, or voter intent issues. When a deconstruction board judges a ballot to be unscannable (damaged, torn, marked through) it is outstacked and the batch’s ballot quantity is adjusted on the log by the check-in team. The unscannable ballot is securely stored for later adjudication and counting.
  • Count the number of ballots in their batch
  • Reconcile the ballot count to the envelope count, and complete the tray header
Upon completion of a batch, deconstruction team members will:
  • Place flattened ballots in a ballot box with the completed tray header on top of the ballots
  • Deliver their ballot box to the check-in station
  • Place empty envelopes in the storage area
  • Begin a new batch
Upon receiving a ballot box and completed tray header, election workers at the check-in station update the ballot reconciliation log, ensuring the number of ballots matches what was expected.  Any discrepancy is resolved at this step, before ballots are moved to the Ballot Counting room.

Scanning, Adjudication, Tabulation & Secure Storage
Scanning
In the Ballot Counting Room, election workers run (count) ballots through high-speed scanners. After each batch is scanned, the scanner software reports the number of ballots counted. Election workers confirm that the number of ballots counted match the tray header and the ballot box label. If the counts do not match, the scanner operator deletes the entire batch from scanner and rescans it. If the counts do not match after rescanning, election staff conduct a review. This review may include hand-counting the ballots, checking the ballot reconciliation log, and/or discussing the batch with the deconstruction and check-in teams.

Adjudication
If a ballot has improper marks, over/under votes, or the voter intent is not clear, the ballot is adjudicated by a bipartisan team of two election judges who determine voter intent based on a Voter Intent Guide provided by the Secretary of State. The team marks the ballot digitally and a log of their decisions is attached to the ballot. The team also ensures the choices from unscannable ballots are correctly recorded by the voting system.

Tabulation
Ballot tabulation takes place on a dedicated tabulation computer located in the Ballot Counting Room. The tabulation computer compiles scanned vote results from the four ballot scanners. Data from the ballot scanners is sent to the ballot tabulation computer through an isolated, secure network that is not connected to any other network or the Internet.
From this tabulation computer, results are printed. They are also downloaded to an external drive and transferred to the Oregon Secretary of State’s Elections Division website via secure file transfer protocol (SFTP).

Secure Storage
All election records, both paper and electronic, are securely stored in accordance with OAR 165-150-0035. Access to secure ballot storage is limited to authorized, sworn election staff.


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