Photo: (Left to right) Jessica Lang, Marcella Mercado, Manuel Granados, Rodolfo Buenrostro fill out sample ballots at the “System Equipment Demonstration and Test for Supplemental Ballots” on Friday at the Soaquin County Registrar of Voters office. (Vivienne Aguilar/Contributor)

San Joaquin County residents are able to tour the election counting facility at any time, and don’t have to wait for an invitation.

But they got one anyway on Friday.

County Registrar of Voters officials held a “System Equipment Demonstration and Test for Supplemental Ballots” as required by state election codes. According to California Election Code 15000, Public Logic and Accuracy Testing must be held at least seven days before any election to ensure every ballot counting device records votes accurately.

Registrar of Voters Olivia Hale wants the people to know they are always welcome.

“I want them to come observe,” Olivia Hale said. “Our office is open now until we certify this election, and even after for you to come in and see what we do in the offseason.”

During the primaries, which occurred on June 7, a large batch of ballots with smeared barcodes halted counting and delated the results for three weeks. But the registrar’s office finalized their count more than a week before the state-mandated deadline.

Attendees at the test were given Stockton East Water District Supplemental Ballots and were asked to mark them as they would normally. Then, the group watched their ballots get scanned by Hart InterCivic Verity Scanners. Images of the entire ballot are then sent to the Hart Verity Central Server, which allows employees to check any marking errors voters may have made on their ballot.

From there the ballot images are uploaded to encrypted V-Drives. Verity creates drives that are unlike regular USB drives. They are made specifically for the computers used to count votes. The computers in the counting rooms have a specific version of Windows that’s only purpose is to record election data and are not connected to the internet, Hale said.

The computers are “not going to read (a normal thumb drive), it won’t even acknowledge that it exists,” Hale told Stocktonia.

Once the group saw their votes counted, they were escorted to the central count room, where normally only full-time administrative employees are allowed, Hale said.

Finally, reports are printed from the Hart Verity Count server. The attendees are then asked to compare the computer’s report of their vote to their ballot and confirm or deny that the process is accurate.

All attendees agreed the equipment worked as intended.

This year, six seasonal employees were asked to do the logic and accuracy test because attendance was so low. Besides Stocktonia, only one other member of the public registered to attend and never showed up, Hale said. The largest group she’s ever had was 10, but ideally 20 members of the public participated every cycle.

Hale said she wants to hear any comments or ideas the public has to offer during these tests to ensure San Joaquin County conducts secure elections. Recently, she and Eric Diaz, assistant registrar, discussed potentially redesigning drop boxes so that ballots are locked into them until they can be opened by election officials at the office.

Hale did a two-and-a-half hour comprehensive presentation on election integrity for the county’s board of supervisors in September. She examined the equipment attendees at Friday’s test got to see, in front of the board, and proved the devices are not connected to the internet.  

The Registrar of Voters office is on the third floor at 44 N. San Joaquin St. in Stockton. The office takes up the entire third floor, unless there is a need to expand for more seasonal employees, like they did earlier this year, Hale said. 

You can go to the ballot counting center to observe on election night after 8:00 p.m. at the Registrar of Voters’ warehouse located at 7585 S. Longe St., Suite 112, Stockton, CA or visit the office with any questions about the counting process.

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