Politicians, intelligence experts, media pundits and election administrators agree that criminals, political partisans and hostile nation-states are preparing attacks on our election systems for 2020. The goal of these bad actors is not to change your vote but to sow doubt and a cynical lack of confidence in our electoral system. Protecting the integrity of every vote cast in Wilson County is the priority of the Election Commission and the 300-plus Wilson County poll officials.
Pre-election testing, auditing and inspection, voter verifiable paper ballots, a strong chain of custody and post- election audits for every election related asset are the four things necessary to secure the voting system and protect the integrity of every vote cast.
A part of the election system probably least understood is the pre-election preparation. Before every election a team of machine technicians representing both the Republican and Democratic parties, begin the process of readying the ballot marking devices and ballot tabulators for Early Voting and Election Day. The process they go through begins a routine maintenance check on each device. Every ballot style available is verified and each ballot marker and vote tabulator are tested for accuracy and security.
Throughout the preparation process, detailed written records are created. The pre-election preparations culminate in a public meeting where every piece of voting system is inspected by the Election Commissioners and public to ensure the integrity of the equipment before the first vote is cast.
The second necessary factor for securing the voting system is a voter verified paper ballot. In the past, voters have made their choices on a touch screen, reviewed the choices and with the touch of the screen cast their ballots. Wilson County voters now make their choices on the touch screen and review those choices on the screen as they have for years. Once the review is complete, they print a paper ballot with their candidate choices printed on it.
Using the ballot marking device, voters cannot make a mistake that will cause their vote to be questioned or not be counted. The ballot marker will not allow voters to choose more than the allowed number of candidates in any contest and by printing the voter’s choices there is no doubt who the voter intended to vote for. Marking a paper ballot with a pen has often resulted in questions being raised about who the voter intended to vote for or the voter marked too many candidates in a single contest and the vote could not be counted.
It’s not enough just to have paper ballots. It’s vital that they be checked by the voter before they are cast. Voters who make a mistake while marking or miss voting in a contest will see the mistake when they review the printed paper ballot. The ballot can be voided and another one marked ensuring that the voter casts a ballot that accurately reflects their intentions. Seeing the names of the candidate choices clearly printed on your ballot before casting it provides a level of confidence not available before.
The third factor necessary to secure your vote is a strong and well documented chain of custody. A documented chain of custody goes hand in hand with strong physical security. Every action taken with every voting system component is documented from the first day of preparation through Election day and throughout the period between elections. The Election Commission maintains a secure facility for the storage and maintenance of all election equipment as well as a robust cybersecurity presence on all election commission systems. Maintaining documented monitoring and protection of commission assets has been a priority to the Wilson County Election Commission for many years.
Finally, after Election Day, rigorous audits of the results and election documents begin. These audits begin the day after Election Day and continue for weeks ending with the official certification of the election results. Certification by the Election Commission is the official documents that every vote cast has been counted and that the will of Wilson County voters is accurately reported. Certificates of election for the winners in each contest are not issued until the auditing process is completed and official results are certified.
Pre-election preparation, voter verified paper ballots, a well-documented chain of custody and security and rigorous post-election audits come together in Wilson County to ensure voters that the choices they make when voting will be accurately reflected in the results reported.
The Wilson County Election Commission’s mission is, in part, to “…protect the integrity of every vote cast … and to provide the most efficient, accurate and secure election process possible… .” Combining the latest technological tools available to election administration with current procedures and good old fashioned paper ballots, Wilson County voters are able to take advantage of a secure, accurate and enjoyable voting experience. With five Early Voting locations and 18 Election Day Vote Center locations to choose from, convenience will be an added bonus for voters in 2020.
The elections being prepared for now by the Wilson County Election Commission are the Republican and Democratic Presidential Preference Primary and Wilson County Republican Party Primary on March 3, the Federal and State Republican and Democratic Primary and Wilson County General Election on Aug. 6, and the Federal and State General Election and Lebanon, Mt. Juliet and Watertown Municipal Elections on Nov. 3.
To learn more about elections, voting and how you can be involved with Wilson County elections contact the Wilson County Election Commission at 615-444-0216 or online at www.Wilsonelections.com.