Watch us in action
See how ballots are processed by watching our live election cams.
Sorting, opening, and scanning ballots do not happen every day or at all hours of the day. If we are not currently processing ballots, our virtual tour video will give you an idea of what we do.
These webcams require Adobe Flash player.
Election Service Center
The Elections Service Center provides accessible voting and voter registration services. It opens about 20 days before each election to provide in-person, accessible voting for all voters, and specifically those voters who require assistance to vote privately and independently.
Staff working at these stations during an election also perform regular administrative duties in between serving voters who visit the center. If there is no live stream or no activity, please check back again at another time or day.
When ballots are delivered to King County Elections, the signature on each envelope is scanned by our mail sorting machines and sent electronically to the signature verification team. Once the signatures have been reviewed and accepted, we prepare envelopes for the opening process by cutting the top of the envelope for easier ballot extraction. Ballots with signature issues are held in secure storage and cannot move forward until the signature is verified. This is the first stage of ballot accountability.
Sorting does not happen every day, or at all hours. If there is no live stream or no activity in the ballot sorting area, please check back again at another time or day.
Before any ballot is counted, the law requires that we visually compare the signature on every returned ballot envelope with the voter’s signature on file. Trained specialists look for general similarities such as height and spacing of letters or slants. If the signatures match, the ballot packet is approved to move forward to opening. If the signatures do not match or a signature is missing, the ballot packet is flagged and sent for further review.
Approximately one to two percent of ballots returned in each election have a problem with the signature, which is referred to as a “challenge.” This requires the voter to resolve the issue before their ballot may be processed. The majority of challenges are simply because the voter did not sign the envelope. Many signatures on the envelope do not match what is on file. While there are many reasons this could happen, common reasons include the length of time since the voter first registered to vote or a voter initialing instead of signing. We contact voters by letter, email and phone with instructions on how to resolve the issue and they have until the day before the election is certified to respond.
Signature verification does not happen every day, or at all hours. If there is no live stream or no activity in the signature verification area, please check back again at another time or day.
Opening is a three step process:
- The security envelope, containing the voted ballot, is removed from the signature envelope and separated.
- Once all signature envelopes have been emptied and set aside, staff open the security envelopes and remove the ballots.
- We visually inspect the ballot to determine if the votes as marked by the voter can be properly read by our scanning equipment. Ballots that are physically ready for scanning and tabulation proceed. Ballots with physical damage or unclear voter marks are sent to Ballot Review.
Ballot opening does not happen every day, or at all hours. If there is no live stream or no activity in the opening area, please check back again at another time or day.
If there is damage to a ballot or if the voter makes stray marks or corrections, or uses the wrong type of pen, the scanners will not be able to read the ballot. In these cases, teams of two determine if the ballot can be electronically duplicated or needs to be physically duplicated. Teams use the Voter Intent Manual produced by the Office of the Secretary of State which ensures consistent determination of voter intent.
Ballot review does not happen every day, or at all hours. If there is no live stream or no activity in the opening area, please check back again at another time or day.
Scanning, Adjudication and Tabulation
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Once a ballot is ready for tabulation, a machine scans the ballot and stores the images on a secure and closed system. If a ballot needs to be adjudicated, we electronically duplicate the ballot using the Voter Intent Manual which ensures consistent determination of voter intent.
Tabulation occurs after 8 p.m. on Election Night and results are produced and made public. Scanning and tabulation continue until all eligible votes are counted and the election is certified. The tabulation server is secured in a room that is monitored by security cameras, biometric controlled access and tamper evident seals.
Scanning does not happen every day, or at all hours. If there is no live stream or no activity in the scanning area, please check back again at another time or day.