Trust Your Election Results?


Election officials don't check many results. Candidates and the public can check more:


A. Get electronic copies of all ballots, by Freedom of Information laws or otherwise.

ˇ       Election machines already scan ballots and make anonymous copies.


B. Print and count these images of ballots, or get programmers to count them, to check official results.

ˇ       If tallies don't match, find the discrepancies. If there's an argument, courts decide.

ˇ       This one step will catch most errors in election results, whether caused by mistakes, dishonesty, or foreigners.


C. If you want more checking, compare paper ballots to the electronic copies, to check the copies are good.

ˇ       Check all ballots or a good sample. If copies aren't right, re-scan ballots with better scanners, release again, check again.

ˇ       If ballots are missing, so you can't check, it's a management failure. Inves­ti­gate and fix management.


Click for more on these steps . . .







Short summary  ~  Op-ed on CNN  ~  Research article


Stories and Examples of scanning ballots


Past State-wide Recounts which succeeded or not in resolving problems




ˇ                 Ask Election Officials for ballot images from at least some precincts in the last election, to start the process, or ask candidates to get them.


ˇ                 See your State's current policies on auditing elections, as summarized in the map below.






Boss Tweed, "As long as I count the Votes, what are you going to do about it? Say?"

Thomas Nast, cartoonist, Harper's Weekly, Oct. 7, 1871 p.944



1.     Old-fashioned dishonest political bosses

2.     Criminal groups who want to choose sheriff, prosecutor or judge

3.     Thieves who want to benefit from contracts, land use decisions or other regulations

4.     Foreigners who want to support one side, or destabilize government by defeating incumbents

5.     Examples of successful hackers, in elections and elsewhere

6.     Election computers face high risks at manufacturers

7.     What could go wrong? Paper ballots after a week in storage


FEDERAL OFFICIALS DO NOT STOP ELECTION CRIMES before or during elections. Their policy is to investigate and they may prosecute after elections. The Justice Department has published Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses in eight editions from 1976 to 2017, under Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Trump. The link compares six of the editions which are online.


However sentencing guidelines are too light to deter major fraud. Election offenses start at "level" 8 to 14, which give prison terms for a first offender of 0-21 months and a $2,000-$75,000 fine. Sentences can be adjusted up or down depending on circumstances.


Federal officials repeatedly hide hacks of election systems: Florida registrations, VR Systems (election night reporting and voter lists), Russian ownership of election web host (minute 6:54 of video), August 2016 email to states (pp.146-151), etc.



ˇ       Humboldt County CA: News reports said state law let stored ballots be accessed if "officials suspect there might be something wrong with the ballots," and public worries gave officials reason to have that suspicion and quell it. This probably refers to Section 15304, which allows opening ballot containers.

ˇ       Other California counties: A 2010 law, AB2023, allowed a pilot study of auditing, which did not mention scanning. The Secretary of State allowed scanning to simplify the audits.

ˇ       Florida: State law 101.591(b) allows automated audits, and the Secretary of State rule FL_1S-5.026(2)(a)2 allows scanning and counting the scans.

ˇ       Vermont: State law 17 V.S.A. § 2493 requires audits to follow §§ 2581-2588, and 2588 allows automatic tabulation of ballots. The Secretary of State does this tabulation by using scanners, and software to count the scans.

ˇ       Maryland: Election law 2-102(b)(7) says to "maximize the use of technology in election administration" which the Secretary of State reads as authority to recount ballot images created by election machines.



1.     Publicly showing each ballot box starts empty

2.     Rapid alternatives when machines fail or jam or staff are absent

3.     Machines compatible with local humidity and moisture from wet hands when voters come in from the rain

4.     Adequate voting places, equipment, parking and/or public transportation

5.     Convoy to take ballot box securely to central counting/scanning station

6.     Copies of eligible voter lists, with appeals of errors

7.     Notice and chance to testify in decisions on provisional ballots

8.     Notice and chance to cure signature defects on mailed ballots

9.     Care with indelible ink

10.  Care with open source and container software

11.  International observers monitor some elections around the world and occasionally in the US (1999, 2011 and 2017). They can greatly increase trust if they are allowed to arrange for ballot scanning and independent counts of the scans, while respecting local authority over the elections.

12.  Enforcement of campaign finance laws

13.  Enforcement of election laws (US practice) (UK examples)

14.  Voter skepticism about political messages (UK examples)


Other election links