Election administrator: paper ballots, audits help ensure integrity at the polls

Although the line was out the door this morning

Authored By Chloé Morrison

There are 130 precincts located at 75 polling sites in Hamilton County. (Photo: Staff)

As the start of early voting nears and news of Russian interference continues to make headlines, Hamilton County’s administrator of elections said local citizens can feel secure in the practices that protect the integrity of the ballot box.

“Hamilton County takes the safeguarding of both our physical and cyber infrastructure very seriously,” Election Administrator Kerry Steelman said via email. “The rigorous system of checks and balances in both the registration and voting process should instill confidence in voters that Hamilton County’s elections will not be compromised.”

In an effort to avoid interference, some state officials recently said they’d move away from the use of touch-screen voting machines. Some experts also recently said that audits can confirm there’s no meddling.

Locally, election officials use paper ballots as well as pre-and-postelection audits to help ensure accuracy.

Machines tabulate paper ballots, and encrypted memory cards with tamper-evident seals store the vote count. Auditors certify the seals in pre-and-postelection inspections of the machines, Steelman said.

The audits are open to the public.

Ballot creation and machine programming is also done locally, which saves taxpayer money, he said.

“Many counties in Tennessee are reliant on outside vendors to construct ballots and program their elections,” he also said. “However, we are fortunate to have an elections programmer on the election commission staff.”

Before going to the polls
Early voting for is from April 11 to April 26 for the May 1 primary election.

To avoid delays during early voting or on Election Day, Steelman said voters can use the election commission’s website to make sure their voter registration information is up-to-date.

Updates, such as address changes or name changes to existing registrations, can now be submitted online.

Voters can verify the addresses of registration and polling places through the Hamilton County Election Commission site or by using the state’s GoVoteTN app, which state leaders developed in coordination with Tennessee’s 95 counties.

Voters need a photo identification issued by the State of Tennessee or federal government to vote.

By the numbers
There are hundreds of details the election commission coordinates in preparation for elections.

The election programmer creates 260 unique ballots for the May county primary, 390 unique ballots for the August primary/county general election and 130 unique ballots for a November general election, Steelman said.

In Hamilton County, the total number of poll workers ranges from about 800 during a May county primary election to more than 1,000 in a November presidential election, he also said. 

There are 130 precincts located at 75 polling sites in Hamilton County.

“Ballots must be approved by the local election commission, and ultimately the State Coordinator of Elections, who ensures its accuracy literally down to every jot and tittle,” Steelman said. “All this must be completed in less than 30 days factoring in the qualifying deadline, withdrawal deadline, and deadline to mail military ballots.”