November 29, 2016
By: J.J. Abbott, Deputy Press Secretary
All Pennsylvanians want to have confidence in the security and results of elections, and that’s why significant steps are in place to ensure that they can.
Following every election, each county in Pennsylvania reviews and reconciles the unofficial elections results. This process is called the official canvass of votes and is completed and overseen by the return board, which is also a county’s bipartisan Board of Elections in many instances.
First, counties compare the number of registered voters in each precinct to the numbered list of voters created at the polls on Election Day. Then, they compare the numbered list of voters to the number of votes recorded on the voting machines that appears on the results tapes printed at the close of polls. The return board then must investigate any discrepancies or irregularities among those records.
The return board has the authority to summon the district election officers, machine inspectors, clerks and overseers during its investigation of any discrepancies. If warranted, the return board must turn over a report of the facts to the district attorney.
The return board must carefully review the tally papers, or district totals cards and compare them to the totals tapes from the machines and reconcile them with the numbers on the general return sheets. During this process, the return board should ensure that all votes were properly compiled from all of the removable storage media associated with the voting machines in each precinct.
As part of the official canvass, and before counties certify the vote totals, the return board must conduct a statistical recount of a random sample of ballots. By law, this occurs of all races in every election.
Counties using optical scan voting systems must conduct the statistical recount via a hand count of ballots and must count every race on the ballot. Counties using direct recording electronic (DRE) voting systems must conduct the statistical recount via a hand count of the ballot images, or cast vote records, contained in the system, rather than the “totals tapes.”
Voting systems must remain locked after the completion of the canvass, unless the return board is required to open them by court order or for purposes of an election contest.