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A. Get electronic copies of all ballots, by public record requests.
  • Election machines already scan and make anonymous ballot images.

B. Print and count these images of ballots, or get programmers to count them, to check official results.
  • Report discrepancies. If there's an argument, courts decide.
  • This one step will catch most errors in election results, whether caused by mistakes, dishonesty, or foreigners.
  • State groups which work for better elections, may be helpful

C. To be sure copies are reliable, compare a good sample of paper ballots to the electronic copies.
  • If copies aren't right, re-scan ballots with better scanners, release again, check again.
  • If ballots are missing, so you can't check, it's a management failure. Inves­ti­gate and fix management.

Click for more on these steps . . .

​1. Old-fashioned dishonest political bosses

2. Criminal groups want to choose sheriff, prosecutor or judge, to avoid prison.

3. Thieves want to benefit from millions of dollars in contracts, land use decisions or other regulations. Governments spend $7 trillion per year, and are chosen by 100 million ballots per year. So the average ballot controls $70,000 of spending, half federal, half state and local.

4. Foreigners who want to support one side, or destabilize government by defeating incumbents

5. Examples of software errors and hackers, in elections and elsewhere

6. Election computers face high risks at manufacturers

7. Paper ballots after a week in storage, what can go wrong?

FEDERAL OFFICIALS DO NOT STOP ELECTION CRIMES before or during elections. Their policy is to investigate and they may prosecute after elections. The Justice Department has published Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses in eight editions from 1976 to 2017, under Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Trump. The link compares six of the editions which are online.

Sentencing guidelines are too light to deter major fraud. Election offenses start at "level" 8 to 14, which give prison terms for a first offender of 0-21 months and a $2,000-$75,000 fine. Sentences can be adjusted up or down depending on circumstances.

Federal officials pretend that defenses are effective, even when many states do not audit. They also hide actual attacks by hackers: Florida  registrations, VR Systems (election night reporting and voter lists), Russian ownership of election web host (minute 6:54 of video), August 2016 email to states (pp.146-151), etc. States ignored the August and October 2016 warnings, because states are used to internet scanning; federal officials did not say this scanning was from a nation state, and could not answer questions (pp.49,51 of Senate report)


  • Humboldt County CANews reports said state law lets stored ballots be accessed if "officials suspect there might be something wrong with the ballots," and public worries gave officials reason to have that suspicion and quell it. This probably refers to Section 15304, which allows opening ballot containers.

  • Other California counties: A 2010 law, AB2023, allowed a pilot study of auditing, which did not mention scanning. The Secretary of State allowed scanning to simplify the audits.

  • Florida: State law 101.591(b) allows automated audits, and the Secretary of State rule FL_1S-5.026(2)(a)2 allows scanning and counting the scans.

  • Vermont: State law 17 V.S.A. § 2493 requires audits to follow §§ 2581-2588, and 2588 allows automatic tabulation of ballots. The Secretary of State does this tabulation by using scanners, and software to count the scans.

  • Maryland: Election law 2-102(b)(7) says to "maximize the use of technology in election administration" which the Secretary of State reads as authority to recount ballot images created by election machines.


Observers watching as much as possible, and reporting to officials and the public.

1. Copies of eligible voter lists, with appeals of errors

2. Reliably checking signatures on mailed ballot envelopes, with publicly known error rates.

3. Publicly showing each ballot box starts empty

4. Rapid alternatives when machines fail or jam or some staff are absent

5. Machines compatible with local humidity and moisture from wet hands when voters come in from the rain

6.  Adequate voting places, equipment, parking and/or public transportation

7. Convoy to take ballot box securely to central counting/scanning station

8. Notice and chance to testify in decisions on provisional ballots

9. Notice and chance to cure signature defects on mailed ballots

10. Exit polls can check results, though consistent differences in US are ignored.

10. Recounts, which have a mixed history of success in checking results

11. Care with indelible ink

12. Care with open source and container software

13.  International observers monitor some elections around the world and occasionally in the US (1999, 2011 and 2017). They can greatly increase trust if they are allowed to arrange for ballot scanning and independent counts of the scans, while respecting local authority over the elections.

14. Enforcement of campaign finance laws

15. Enforcement of election laws (US practice) (UK examples)

16. Voter skepticism about political messages (UK examples)

17. Partial list of problems 1982-2020
1870 Cartoon of Boss Tweed saying he can win if he counts the votes
​Can You Trust Election Results?

  • Election officials don't check many tallies from election computers. Checking is hard.

Candidates and groups can check more:
Comments on S.1 in Congress
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Errors and hacks happeneven on computers not connected to the internet, because errors enter when annual updates are installed, when election machines are manufactured, and when election machines sit unguarded at polling places the night before elections.

Tallying ballots independently of election machines has led to new results and insights in Michigan, PennsylvaniaCalifornia, and Florida.

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1. Campaigns and groups can ask election officials for ballot images from the previous election.
  • See everyone else your supporters voted for, so you can build alliances. 
  • Test the system, so you can get ballots fast, and tally them fast, after the next election.

2. See your State's current policies, if any on auditing election tallies, as summarized in the map below, and ways to audit eligibility and ballot-marking devices (BMDs).