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I-Team

I-Team: Ensuring accuracy this election

No matter where you vote in the Coachella Valley, your ballot will end up more than 60 miles away inside an 18,000-square-foot warehouse in Riverside.

The Riverside County Registrar of Voters Office processes roughly 80,000 ballots a day which, by the time the election is over, should total more than 1.2 million ballots.

"We hope everybody participates in this important election. It's part of our democratic process," said Rebecca Spencer, Riverside County Registrar of Voters.

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Crucial to that process is ensuring the results of the election are accurate. That's why counties conduct a post-election audit.

Spencer says two days after election day one percent of the county's precincts are selected at random, and those paper ballots are then hand-counted and compared to the electronic-count to make sure they match.

Peter: "How accurate are the audits and were there any discrepancies in the audits for the most recent election?"

Spencer: "The audits are 100 percent accurate and no, we have not seen any issues come from the audits. The hand-count always matches the machine count."

But Spencer says the hand-counts often reveal ballots that have not been filled out correctly.

"We can see that voters instead of filling in the oval might be putting an 'x' or a check mark or circling the candidates' name, so those are the things we find out during that audit," Spencer said.

Those ballots then go through more human review before they're counted. Also keeping an eye on audit discrepancies is the Department of Justice.

"We are paying attention. We have been working on these things," said assistant U.S. Attorney Mack Jenkins.

Jenkins says the audits can help expose voter fraud.

"Are you eligible to vote? Should you be voting in the first place? You can't vote twice, also a federal crime during a federal election. People voting in the names of another. All of those we put in the fraud bucket," Jenkins said.

Peter: "How concerned are you that there may be some major issues with this election?"

Jenkins: "I would say I'm not concerned, but I would say we are very interested in being prepared and having a lot of planning and having a lot of teamwork to ensure we've prepared for the worst-case scenario."

It takes a full month after election day for Riverside County to certify results. Not only to make sure that every ballot is counted, which is postmarked on or before election day, but also to notify voters whose ballots have signature issues.

"If we're checking the signatures on the envelope in comparison to the voters' signature on their voter registration card, if we determine that it's not a match, we have to notify those voters and let them hear that issue," Spencer said.

If an election is extremely close, Spencer says it may take weeks to certify the results. Another reason why audits are important before certifying a winner.

The Department of Justice says anyone with complaints of election fraud or inaccurate ballots can give them a call at 310-477-6565 or email voting.section@usdoj.gov.

Investigative / News / News Headlines / Top Stories

Peter Daut

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