The Accu-Vote machines will be tallying votes during Penticton’s 2018 municipal elections. Jordyn Thomson/Western News.

Video: Learn how your vote will be tallied in the municipal election

Laurie Darcus, Chief Election Officer for Penticton, demonstrated how the Accu-Vote machines work

Penticton’s chief election officer, Laurie Darcus, showed voters how their ballots will be securely tallied in the 2018 municipal election using the Accu-Vote machines.

The machines operate using pre-programmed cards that each have a unique serial number. The machines are non-operational without a card, and Darcus has ensured each machine has its own card for each advance poll date and the general election date.

“If I wanted to, I could have ordered just one card for all the advance polls, but I prefer to have them separated.”

“(Once the card is first inserted) it prints out a zero tape, showing that there are no votes that have gone through so far,” said Darcus. “We print three copies that I, and a scrutinizer, will sign. One goes up on the wall at the station, one goes to audit and one stays with the machine until the election is over.”

The card is sealed into the machine and can only be removed with a tool once voting has ended. Darcus said the zero tape that is printed out shows the poll centre where the machine is tallying votes and the serial number of the card.

Related: Who’s running in Penticton’s election?

Penticton will be running two voting locations on the day of general election, the main one at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre and a secondary location at the Seniors’ Drop-in Centre. Scrutineers at the second location will phone the totals tape results from their two Accu-Vote machines to Darcus, who will be at the main location.

“This machine does not have a wireless connection, it has a plug-in only for power. There is an option for these machines to be connected by a modem for a telephone line,” said Darcus. “But we don’t use that option. We’ll be phoning from the Seniors’ Drop-in Centre to the main location.”

Once the votes have been tallied at the end of the election, Darcus will remove the cards from the machines under the supervision of a scrutinizer who will record the machine seal number for each card and machine. Individual cards and the accompanying machine seals are sealed into envelopes and signed by officials.

Related: Municipal elections: what you need to know

“We masking tape the envelopes so that if anyone ever trying to open the envelope to get the card, it would rip it. Then the envelopes are stored in a safe that only I have the combination for,” said Darcus.

Darcus said while there may be room for human error in relaying the results over the phone, the results will be triple-checked and after the preliminary results have been given, “they check everything all over again.”

“When the Seniors’ Drop-in Centre finishes, they’re going to come to the convention centre and we’re going to post all of the totals tapes on the wall, so anybody can have a look and re-add them if they want,” said Darcus.

City council has opted not to do manual vote counting but Darcus said one could still happen if the results of the election are challenged.

Related: Free election day bus service and property boundary checks advised

Attendees of the demonstration were also concerned these machines were the same model that have been banned for use in U.S. elections, but it was clarified that these are not the same machines.

“The reason some of them were banned in the U.S. is they were allowed to put in tolerances in the machines, this one doesn’t allow me to do anything to it,” said Darcus. “What a tolerance does is allows a ballot to be disregarded if the mark is (not the right type).”

Participants at the demonstration did their best to trick the Accu-Vote machines by improperly filling out their demo ballots. It was noted that the machine would not register a vote if a mark was made outside of the oval, whether it was an X, check, or other mark; and the mark had to be of a certain size in order to register.

For information about where to vote for the advance polls and general election, click here.

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Jordyn Thomson | Reporter


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