Franklin County outlines security measures for Nov. 3 election
Election security is in the headlines, and Franklin County issued a news release Tuesday outlining security measures for the Nov. 3 general election, as follows:
Absentee & Mail-in Voting
The county will only send out a ballot to those that have requested one. Voters requesting a ballot are required to submit either their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number so that a secondary check may be performed with either PennDOT or the Social Security Administration prior to mailing out a ballot. If it does not receive a match back, additional measures are taken before a ballot will be issued.
When the voted ballot is returned, the signature on the declaration envelope is matched against the signature on the voter’s file. They understand that a person’s handwriting can change over time, but any significant variation of the signature will cause the ballot to be reviewed by the county board of elections during the official count for a determination.
While drop boxes are allowed under current law, Franklin County decided not to offer drop boxes due to security concerns. Instead if offers two return sites where a voter can present their voted ballot to an attendant who verifies that it is completed correctly and then instructs the voter to place it into a secured ballot box. With this practice they can ensure that the voter is returning their own ballot, unless for a voter with a disability, and that no ballot harvesting is occurring.
More:FAQ's for voting
Pre-canvassing & Canvassing
Under current law, the county board of elections cannot start pre-canvassing the ballots until the morning of Nov. 3. Pre-canvassing is the process necessary to get the ballots ready to be run through a central ballot scanner to be counted. They have a dedicated group of employees who assist with this process, which includes opening the outer declaration envelope, removing the secrecy envelope, opening the secrecy envelope and unfolding the ballot to flatten it.
Once flattened, the ballots will be placed into a ballot bag with keyless security and stored in a secured area until ready to be counted.
All employees assisting with election-related tasks are required to sign an oath.
Both the Democratic and Republican parties will be permitted to assign an authorized representative to be present during both the pre-canvass and canvass to observe.
The county election board, made up of the three county commissioners, will oversee the counting of the absentee and mail-in ballots, which will start Wednesday morning, Nov. 4.
The county’s election equipment vendor is Election Systems & Software (ES&S), one of the largest manufacturers of voting machines in the United States. They have used ES&S for approximately 35 years in Franklin County and have been very satisfied with their products and service.
The DS200, ExpressVotes and DS450 used in Franklin County ensure our voters that they are voting on the most secure, accessible and auditable equipment available. Each piece of equipment had to pass very vigorous testing at both the federal and state level before being certified to be used in PA elections.
The precinct scanner and central scanner both allow for a voter to use a paper ballot to record their vote and upon scanning their ballot in, the vote is tabulated immediately and a digital image of their entire ballot is captured.
At no time is any voting equipment connected to the internet. All results are saved to an encrypted thumb drive and hand delivered to the county to be counted.
Voting equipment is also password protected and is sent out to the polling places with tamper-evident seals.
Prior to each election, a logic and accuracy test of every piece of election equipment is performed to ensure that the machines are programmed correctly and the ballots are counting accurately.
They also hold a public test the Friday before each election to demonstrate that the machines are working properly and counting accurately.
After each election, a 2 percent hand count of ballots is performed to confirm that the results from the precinct counters match the hand count.
The county has overseen several court-ordered recounts over the years and no hand recount has ever changed the outcome of that particular race involved in the requested recount, including one race where a candidate lost by only one vote.
The county is also participating in a risk limiting audit with the PA Department of State, which is used to provide a high-level of confidence and statistical verification that the outcome of the election is accurate.
The county is also participating in two mock elections, overseen by the PA Department of State, to again ensure that election results are being uploaded correctly. Results from our stand-alone computer, not connected to the internet, are always saved to a thumb drive and taken to a different laptop to be uploaded to the state.
General Election Security
Franklin County is in constant communication with the Department of Homeland Security, the Center for Internet Security of Election Infrastructure, as well as Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.