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How Do I Know My Vote Counts? Duval Elections Supervisor Counts The Ways

Kayla Davis
The Duval Elections Center includes a mock voting precinct where workers train.

With Donald Trump’s proclamations of a rigged election, some Northeast Florida voters are wondering whether their vote is safe.

At the Duval County Elections Center, Elections Supervisor Mike Hogan said multiple steps are in place to make sure each person votes only once and no one can tamper with that vote.

At polling places, each voter checks in with either a driver’s license or one of 11 other types of ID.  

“And when they swipe it in the machine, it populates who that voter is right away in our database,” Hogan says.

The county now knows who’s voting and where he or she is voting. Each voter is given a receipt at check-in, which they take to the ballot table and trade for a ballot corresponding to the number on the receipt.

Hogan says, that way, if he’s sent 500 ballots to a precinct, “At the end of the day, if that precinct tells me that 350 people voted, I should still have 150 unused ballots here. So that’s my second check.”

He says he can double check either the receipts or a handwritten tally, on top of the ballot count itself.

When voters put their paper ballots into an electronic tabulator, “The voter’s going to see the number change on the screen, so the voter’s going to have some relief—‘OK, it took my ballot,’” Hogan said. “Number 2, it’s a paper ballot, and it falls into the bottom of the machine. That’s very important.”

Ballot counts are stored on the machines’ thumb drive, which is locked and inaccessible, and it’s transmitted to the Elections Center over a private internet connection.

“Most importantly, it transfers that data in what we call microbursts, so it’s very hard for someone to capture that. If they try to capture it, it’s going to slow it down a little bit, and we will notice it, and that will make us that much more earnest about checking our real data, which is the hard counts,” he said.

Hogan says each of the county’s 247 tabulating machines is tested for accuracy before the election, both at the Elections Center and again at the polling location. And Florida law requires random audits of races and precincts before the results are certified.

“So you see, I’ve given you a whole host of ways that we protect the vote, especially the accuracy of it,” Hogan said.

As for mail-in ballots, Hogan says it’s an old wives’ tale that they’re not counted unless the election is close. In reality, those ballots are counted first.

CORRECTION: Mike Hogan's name was incorrect in one mention in this story. Hogan is Duval County's elections supervisor. Jerry Holland is the former Duval elections supervisor and current property appraiser.

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP