When election day rolls around, voters will be casting their ballots to shape the future of their localities.
But none of it matters if the voting machines aren’t working accurately.
“We do everything we can to protect democracy,” said Dianna Moorman, director of elections for James City County. “It’s a fascinating world and many people don’t realize what we do to protect their vote.”
There are 60 voting machines in James City County and 46 in York County, each costing between $5,000 to $8,000, said Walt Latham, voter registrar for York County.
While those machines are designed to be simple, there is a complex system in place to ensure their security and accuracy.
By law, each locality has to perform logic and accuracy testing prior to each election, Latham said.
“I sometimes get worried about people who might get scared about the security of the machines,” Latham said. “The system is very good in the United States, and while it’s not perfect, the thing that’s worse than having an insecure voting machine is people not showing up to vote.”
What that means is that county staff fill out ballots and run them through the machines to ensure the predesignated circles correspond to the correct outcome.
Depending on each election and how many offices are on the running, the tests can go anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour for each machine because it requires running through all possible election outcomes, Moorman said.
Testing in James City County is typically done a week before absentee voting starts, Moorman said.
But throughout the year, each county makes sure the machines are kept under lock and key to prevent anyone from tampering with the technology. In James City County, Moorman said the machines are in an undisclosed location that is equipped with an alarm system, motion detection and additional security.
Both counties also require staff to sign a form each time they enter the room and it is required that there is always another person present. Moorman calls this a “self-imposed two-person rule.”
While the machines are tested before each election, after a certain amount of years the technology can become out-of-date. In both York County and James City County, the machines are switched about every 10 years, unless issues arise before that date.
Moorman said there hasn’t been an issue with any of the machines in the 14 years she has worked in the Registrar’s Office.
For extra security, Moorman said technicians drive around to each polling place the morning of election day to check the machines. Following that, the election officer and the machine officer verify that the number on each machine’s seal matches the number installed during testing.
“It’s a lot that we go through,” Moorman said. “We want to ensure that every vote is counted the way they should be counted.”