Take a Bite Out of Vote Counting Crime: Track the Poll Tapes!

9 mins read

“POLL TAPES are printed vote results from voting machines that are transferred to a central tabulator. This process can be used to manipulate election results but signed poll tapes are a crucial check. Public viewing and taking pictures of poll tapes can be a significant deterrent for election results fraud.” – Black Box Voting

It’s hard to take photos of poll tapes from hundreds of precincts, collect them and tabulate their totals quickly. Voting rights groups are using volunteers, crowdsourcing and innovative technology to simplify how poll tape photos are collected.

How crowdsourced volunteers and technology can help reduce vote count manipulation.


Problems can creep in when poll counts are transferred from polling locations to a central tabulator. Sometimes not all the counts are transferred, sometime the counts are altered, sometimes the computer malfunctions… Photos of poll tapes provide a simple way to ensure that the election results reported match the total from all the polling locations.

“Signed poll tapes are a crucial check and balance and a key chain of custody record, because voting machine counts are transferred to a central tabulator where votes can be altered. Poll tapes can help deter election fraud during aggregation and reporting phases, if members of the public take pictures of them. In elections of questionable integrity, poll tapes go missing, or do not match reported results.” – Black Box Voting

“Premier voting systems, formerly known as Diebold, acknowledged that the voting system used during the recent Ohio primary contained a critical programming error which led to the loss of votes as they were being totaled.

Compare digital vote tallies from voting machine- s to vote total tapes.
Compare electronic tally server totals to vote total tapes generated from each voting machine.
Publish results of ballot, machine total, and memory card reconciliations.”
– Brennan Center – Ballot Accounting Checklist

Collect poll tapes photos with See Say 2020

See Say 2020 is a free solution that let voters report intimidation and also lets volunteers take pictures or videos of poll tapes. See Say is a web-based solution designed with ArcGIS Survey 123 and can used with any smartphone without having to install an app and can easily handle thousands of simultaneous submission. Volunteers simply take a photo, mark their location and other details. All submissions are immediately uploaded to a cloud based system.

Several voter protection groups are training their volunteer and poll monitors to use this free solution to crowdsource the collection of poll tapes. The goal is to have a central ‘citizen owned’ database of information to help ensure fair voting and accurate vote counts. This is how a volunteer can upload a poll tape with See Say 2020.

Volunteers can take and upload both photos and videos of poll tapes with See Say 2020.

Digitizing and tabulating poll tape information

The poll tape photos have to be digitized before totals can be calculated. This can be quickly done by volunteers in the field or at a central location with Pen To Print, a free phone based app. Voting rights groups crowdsource the collection, digitization and tabulation of poll tapes. The approach is fast and free and quickly build a repository of information for the public, journalists and legal groups.

It does take a village

The information submitted is first validated and then shown on dashboards with maps to make the information easy to search. Public facing dashboards have basic information while private dashboards for authorized partners have more details.

Information is more valuable when it is comprehensive, detailed, affordable and available in a timely manner. Time is of the essence in elections. The See Say 2020 system is designed to have information be collected, digitized, tabulated and be available for use in less than an hour. See Say 2020 is a free resource that collaborates with different poll watching groups, volunteers and voting rights organizing who all contribute and benefit from the collected information. Learn more about See Say 2020.

See Say 2020 provides a real-time dashboards that make it easy to find details of both poll tapes and instances of voter suppression.

Machines behaving badly

Vote manipulation comes in many forms. Fractional vote manipulation was first spotted and reported by Benny Smith. It is truly diabolical form of election result manipulation that you should be aware of.

“The results of this study demonstrate that a fractional vote feature is embedded in each GEMS application which can be used to invisibly, yet radically, alter election outcomes by pre-setting desired vote percentages to redistribute votes. This tampering is not visible to election observers, even if they are standing in the room and watching the computer. Use of the decimalized vote feature is unlikely to be detected by auditing or canvass procedures, and can be applied across large jurisdictions in less than 60 seconds.

Fractionalized votes assign a fraction (1/2 or say 1+7/8) of a vote to a candidate rather than one vote. They allow “weighting” of races. Weighting a race removes the principle of “one person-one vote” to allow some votes to be counted as less than one or more than one. Regardless of what the real votes are, candidates can receive a set percentage of votes. Results can be controlled. For example, Candidate A can be assigned 44% of the votes, Candidate B 51%, and Candidate C the rest.

GEMS vote-counting systems are and have been operated under five trade names: Global Election Systems, Diebold Election Systems, Premier Election Systems, Dominion Voting Systems, and Election Systems & Software, in addition to a number of private regional subcontractors. At the time of this writing, this system is used statewide in Alaska, Connecticut, Georgia, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Utah and Vermont, and for counties in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.” – Black Box VotingThis devastating video contains a real-time demo of precise, scaleable, invisible election manipulation which can be performed in multiple counties at once. Full videos with details

Groups for fair voting and election results

SMART Elections is a new non-partisan project dedicated to elevating the issue of election reform to an urgent national priority.  
Scrutineers offers a new way to come together to protect the 2020 elections. Protect the voters. Protect the votes.
Actual Vote enables volunteers to make digital recordings of publicly posted polling place results for later comparison with official results.
TrustTheVote Project building ElectOS, election technology that election officials can freely adopt, adapt and deploy to run on commodity hardware.
Transparent Elections aims to confirm that every vote is counted as the voter intended by working with election officials to ensure that elections are transparent, audited, and publicly verified.
Audit Elections USA works for election transparency — so regular people can verify whether our votes were counted accurately.

Take Away: Crowdsource the collection of photos of poll tapes and their digitization with See Say 2020 to ensure fairer voting and reduce the risk of miscounted results. Be aware of fractional magic manipulation and support groups working on fair elections.


Image credit: Noun ProjectDFS
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