As a DevOps devotee, there’s nothing I like better than a system with failsafes, checks, and balances. One great pleasure of working with Salesforce DevOps is that the APIs fail fast, fail safe, and log verbosely. Success means success.

Speaking as a newbie Election Inspector, another well-designed system is the voting process we practice here in Monroe County, and I’m sure in other counties in New York State, and throughout the US. I’ve only got one primary election under my belt (good prep for Nov 8th!), but I can’t help but be impressed by the careful, thoughtful system we have in place to count each and every vote.

First, the New York State Board of Elections has been a bipartisan agency since 1974. Everything NYS poll workers do is done in teams with one Republican and one Democrat worker. (If you belong to another party, you can identify as Republican or Democrat.)

Even our training was conducted jointly with Republican and a Democrat instructors, and each polling location also has both a Republican and Democrat site chair.

The voting collection mechanisms vary throughout the country. Here, we use optical scanners that read paper ballots marked by the voter. The scanners collect the ballots in a secure bin and records each vote to dual memory cards. When polls close, one card stays with the ballots, and a second is taken directly to a central location to tabulate the vote. 

A closing report of the votes are also printed on a spool of paper tape, in duplicate, and time stamped. One stays with the ballots, and another goes with the second memory card. Both the ballots and the card are sealed.

As soon as possible after the polls close, the ballots and the second card are delivered separately by one of bipartisan site chair to different locations.

Here are a few of the many safeguards built into the process.

  • Every inspector must attend a training session each election year to remain qualified.
  • We diagram the room layouts in advance, to be sure sure voters have privacy, and that inspectors can monitor the scanners for any kind of failure.
  • The scanners arrive under seal, and a bipartisan team removes the seals and sets up the machines. Each scanner even has a battery-backup in the event of a power failure.
  • The ballots are carefully counted and tracked. If there is an issue with a ballot (it is “spoiled” or “abandoned”), we have to collect and return it in a special envelope, and signed by a bipartisan team.
  • As we open new packets of ballots throughout the day, we log the time and ballot numbers.
  • Voters are checked in by a bipartisan team of inspectors, who identify the voter in the Poll Book, log that the ballot number was used, and explain the voting process to the voter.
  • If an inspector or interpreter must assist a voter, the person assisting the voter must take a special oath, and the event is logged.
  • Credentialed journalists, official Poll Watchers, and even Candidates are expected to visit polling sites, and we have formal procedures governing what they can and cannot do. We are also trained to handle any attempt at electioneering at the polling site.
  • If a ballot includes a write-in vote, the scanner diverts it to a special compartment, and they are tallied and returned in a special envelope.
  • Once the polls close, a ballot reconciliation is completed and signed by a bipartisan team, and returned with any unused supplies. An “After the Polls Close” certificate is also completed and signed, summarizing all the various seal numbers and tallies.
  • Many seals, envelopes, and other materials are color coded, to make everything easy to match. There are checklists for absolutely everything.

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A special point of pride for us here is that we provide a specially equipped scanner for the physically impaired, so that everyone can cast their own secret ballot.
People all over the United States are working hard to assure every vote counts. If you are eligible to vote on November 8th, please turn out. It’s a long day for the inspectors, and we like to keep busy!


Ted Husted is a Kaizen Squad developer on the Nimble AMS product crew. “We make the good changes that create a great product.”