Here’s a look at how Maricopa County elections officials tabulate votes

Jul 27, 2022, 4:45 AM
A Maricopa County Elections Department staff member counts ballots ahead of the 2020 general electi...
A Maricopa County Elections Department staff member counts ballots ahead of the 2020 general election on October 31, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. (File Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)
(File Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The Maricopa County Elections Department explained how officials tabulate votes with many people expected to cast a ballot in the upcoming primary election.

For residents who voted early by dropping off a ballot or mailing it in, Communications Director Megan Gilbertson said the ballots are first collected by bipartisan couriers and delivered to the Maricopa County Elections Department where they go through signature verification.

“Every single early ballot is signature verified by a trained staff member,” Gilbertson said. “We look at a picture of your signature and we compare it to all of the signature samples on file.”

Once the signature is verified, the ballot is then moved to the early ballot processing teams.

“Those are bipartisan teams who separate the ballot from the envelope and at this point, it really is where the secret ballot is born,” Gilbertson said.

She explains that up until that point, the ballot is tracked by a bar code. Once the signature is verified, it’s separated and becomes secret.

Gilbertson said the ballot is then prepared for tabulation and is officially counted.

The process is somewhat different for ballots of those who decide to vote on Election Day in person.

Gilbertson explains there are 211 vote centers, and voters aren’t assigned to a specific one.

She adds if residents do decide to vote in person, there are a few things they’ll need.

“Bring an ID, we do have ID requirements in Arizona,” she said. “The best thing to bring is your driver’s license with your updated address.”

Gilbertson adds if the ID doesn’t have a correct address, or voters don’t have an ID, to bring a utility bill with the correct address.

She said once voters enter the location, they will need to present their ID. The ballot is then printed on-site.

“On Election Day only, we have actually what we call precinct-based tabulators,” Gilbertson said. “Those pieces of tabulation equipment are actually counting the ballot right there in front of the voter.”

The voter will be able to put their ballot inside the machine and see that their vote has been counted.

Gilbertson said later on Election Night, poll workers come to collect the votes.

“The poll workers break the tamper evidence seal to bring the memory card back from the tabulator, along with all of the counted ballots,” she said.

Gilbertson explains they do multiple uploads throughout Election Night because poll workers are coming from all across Maricopa County with the casted votes.

She adds the ballot tabulation center is not connected to the internet and has multiple layers of security and oversight, including badge access.

“You have to have a specific working need to be in there,” Gilbertson said. “Someone like myself or even (Maricopa County) Recorder (Stephen) Richer doesn’t even have access to that because we don’t have a working need, we’re not the ones counting the ballots.”

The elections department requires that at least two staff members are in the ballot tabulation center at all times and it has 24/7 security.

Gilbertson said the secure server room, where all the votes are stored, has even more restricted access.

“There is actually only four people in the elections department that have access to that and none of them are IT professionals,” she said.

The department requires a sign in to get into the server room and anyone who enters must have a working need to be in there.

Voters can watch a live stream of the ballot counting process through the Maricopa County Elections Department website.

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Here’s a look at how Maricopa County elections officials tabulate votes