Interesting things I learned while training to be a Fairfax County Election Officer

I spent a few hours yesterday training to be a Fairfax County Election Officer. At some point in the next few weeks I will be assigned a precinct for the March 1st primary.

These are a few things I found noteworthy:

  • Voter ID Cards: if you don’t have a driver’s license,  state ID, or any of the myriad accept forms of ID,  you can get a Voter ID.
  • Cards that have an expiration date are valid for voting up to a year after that date.
  • ExpressVote-right_webThe ExpressVote machine “neither votes nor is particularly fast”.  It’s an accessible way to fill out a ballot,  for people who are unable to do it on paper.  The machine can be operated by touch-screen,  a combination of headphones and a braille keypad, or the breath input built in to some wheelchairs. The screen also has a high-contrast mode for color-blind voters. It prints out a little slip of paper. Just like the regular ballot, you have not actually voted until you feed it into the vote scanning machine, the DS200.
  • If the DS200 had legs it would look like Gonk.
  • Voters who are over 65 or disabled can vote curbside.
  • There is no trash and no souvenirs– every bit of detritus produced by the voting process gets filed away in a particular places. Spoiled ballots? There’s an envelope for that. The zip-tie that keeps the DS200 closed until just before the polls open? Envelope 7C.
  • Those zip ties have serial numbers.

Geeky bits:

  • The laptops in the precinct used for checking voters in are on a physical LAN, and share (peer-to-peer) an MS-SQL database, exported from the county registrar’s master database within the last day or so. Each laptop starts out with a complete copy of the database, on a thumb drive. It seems like this would be unnecessary if all of the laptops are networked (since a single database could propagate out to the other stations, through the same mechanism they use to keep in-sync), but it’s probably a significant speed-up, and more fault tolerant.
  • There’s no connectivity to the internet or elsewhere on on those laptops, and no other software besides the “Pollbook” app.
  • Attempting to do anything else on the laptops is probably  a felony.
  • The DS200’s are not networked at all, all votes are stored on a thumb drive. At the end of the polling day, the machine spits out a paper tape with the day’s results, along with images of any right-in votes. The Chief Election Officer uses that print out to fill out the final paperwork and report on the precinct’s results.
  • When using the DS200, you’ll see a count of votes for the current election, and a”protected count”. This second number is the total number of votes cast over the lifetime of the machine.

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