VOTING & BALLOT COUNTING PRINCIPLES AND BEST PRACTICES

From National Election Defense Coalition

PUBLIC CONTROL

Four essential ingredients of democratic elections that must be visible to the public:

  • Who can vote (the voters list)

  • Who voted (the polling place sign-in book)

  • Whether the ballots counted are same ones as were cast (chain of custody)

  • How the count was conducted, and how it was validated (public count) 

TRANSPARENCY

  • All voting processes, aside from the secret casting of the ballot, should be accessible to political parties, candidates, and the public, either as witnesses or participants, without unreasonable or arbitrary barriers.

  • Election materials and voted ballots must be public records, accessible by public records request, at no cost.

  • National and international observers must be granted appropriate access without unreasonable or arbitrary barriers.

  • No paperless non-verifiable voting systems or privately controlled "proprietary" software should be permitted.

ACCURACY

  • Provide the voter with a way of marking the ballot that leads to results consistent with the voter’s desire.

  • Accurate precinct-based hand counting and statistically significant and secure machine auditing methods must be strictly maintained.

  • Public reporting of any discrepancies found during the manual count or audit, using the manual count to correct any initial reported results.

  • Verify the accuracy of polling place results that are communicated to central count locations.

SECURITY

Top principles of security:

  • Voting (marking the ballot) in private.

  • Casting (delivering to the ballot box) the ballots in public.

  • Counting ballots in public, before they are moved from public view.

  • Transport (chain of custody) of election materials by responsible officials sworn to an oath who should keep ballots in sight at all times and accompany them when they are transported. Transport could be under video surveillance. Seals and locks should not be depended on for ballot security, as all of them can be violated.

  • Storage of ballots and other election documents should be in a known public location under video surveillance.

BALANCE OF POWER

  • All processes that involve touching ballots and election materials must be done by at least two people of different party affiliations.

  • All recognized political parties should be represented on decision-making bodies for elections.

  • Lone partisan offices such as Secretary of State invite corruption and politicization and should not be in charge of administering elections.

  • Conflicts of interest must be prohibited—between officials and campaigns, as well as between officials and private voting technology vendors and consultants.

TIMELINESS

  • Accurate results at the appropriate time based on the requirements of transparency and security. Results should be announced at a time that does not compromise the accuracy and completeness of the counting process.

  • Announcing preliminary or unofficial results erodes election integrity. This includes media coverage before polls close.