Wednesday June 7th 2023

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Article #4 in a series of articles about the 2022 Midterm Elections, brought to you by the League of Women Voters Minneapolis.

We’ve thought hard about the candidates and slipped our ballots into the voting machine on election day. We’ve done our part. Now it’s up to others to make sure our votes are safe.

The first persons we encounter at the polls are the election judges, there to help us through the voting process – from registering and verifying eligibility to actually depositing the ballots. They are usually citizens from the neighborhood, chosen based on their experience and sometimes language skills. Judges are affiliated with a variety of major parties, or they may be unaffiliated. Certain tasks at the polls need to be performed by two people of different parties. All judges receive specific training to do their jobs and are sworn in to be impartial.

When voting at the polls ends at 8 pm on election night, the election judges at each of Minneapolis’ 137 precincts bring materials to the city clerk staff at two receiving sites. It’s a meticulous process, as election judges there check and re-check that the precinct judges have signed off on every item returned, such as envelopes containing election day registrations, number of spoiled ballots, and ballots themselves. Also included are tapes containing numerical results and a memory stick, a kind of thumb drive, which registers the number of votes in each category. Absentee ballots are entered into a high-speed tabulator starting seven days before election day.

Memory sticks from all the machines are sent to Hennepin County where certified staff handle the ballot information on them and submit unofficial vote totals to the Secretary of State’s office. These unofficial results are posted on election night or shortly thereafter by the State and also on the Minneapolis elections website. Results are official only after they are approved by a canvassing board, officials who review and approve results. This usually occurs in the weeks following an election

So, what happens to our ballots while this process is going on? They, along with other materials collected from the precincts, are organized by ward and precinct and locked safely in a vault at Minneapolis elections headquarters. Should there be a question about voting results, or if a vote is so close that Minnesota law demands a recount, the paper ballots provide a necessary backup. The memory sticks are securely stored at Hennepin County Elections offices.

Much work goes into the election before actual voting day. Ballots for early voting must be prepared and sent to verified recipients. Ballots and voting machines must be tested and sent to the precincts. State law demands a public test of voting machines 14 days prior to election. At least two election judges from different parties certify the accuracy of the tabulators.

After every state general election, the county performs a post-election review of results returned by the optical scan ballot counters. The review is a hand count of the ballots in randomly selected precincts compared with the results from the voting system used. For local elections, city officials perform a similar random audit.

Everyone’s vote matters. Our election officials are dedicated to ensuring every vote is safe, secure, and counted.

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