Election Machine Vote Tabulation, Dominion Voting Imagecast Precinct: 2022 Review, Ontario Election

Ontario Provincial Election 2022 Jun2 02 used the Dominion Voting Imagecast Precinct tabulation machine. Photo by Don Tai

Ontario Provincial Election 2022 Jun2 02 used the Dominion Voting Imagecast Precinct tabulation machine. Photo by Don Tai

The world’s democracies hinge on elections being fair and above board. No party should be able to “steal an election”, with no vote rigging or other shenanigans. At the end of an election day, when election workers are most tired, the counting of votes is a critical final step to the final election result. The Dominion Voting Company’s Imagecast Precinct, or “tabulator” as we call it, is a vote counting machine that reads all votes throughout the election day. At the end of the election day the poll is closed and, “voila”, the election poll results are printed out on a grocery store sales slip-type of thermal printout.

This 2022 June 02 was my first provincial election, where I was a tabulator deputy returning officer (DRO). I had previously participated in the last two federal elections as a deputy returning officer. The federal elections are all paper based, with a laborious and error prone vote counting at the end of the day. The more innovative provincial government uses these tabulators, making life a lot easier and the election a lot more accurate. There are, however, increased technical complexity involved.

Accuracy Testing
Prior to the election, the tabulator is zeroed, a printout is created. A predetermined and specific set of ballots is created. This test set is run through the machine. A printout is created. After the election the tabulator is again zeroed, and the test dataset is again run through the machine, a printout is again created. The results before and after the election must match in all respects.

Tabulator Security
A key fob, similar to those used in cars, is required to do any admin functions on the tabulator. In addition there are multiple security passwords required to access different functions. During the election the key fob is carried by the tabulator DRO at all times, ensuring that no one else can alter the tabulator.

Two 8G SD cards are needed in the tabulator. For the election a security zip tie with a serial number is used to prevent the SD cards from being removed. I do not know what is stored on these SD cards.

Ontario Provincial Election 2022 Jun2 02 used the Dominion Voting Imagecast Precinct tabulation machine. Photo by Don Tai

Ontario Provincial Election 2022 Jun2 02 used the Dominion Voting Imagecast Precinct tabulation machine. Photo by Don Tai

Physical Setup
On election day the tabulator is set upon a large ballot box. Once the ballot is read by the tabulator, the ballot automatically drops into the box. The ballot box uses adhesive seals signed by the tabulator DRO and witnessed by the supervisor DRO. The tabulator output is sealed to the ballot box by the tabulator DRO and signed with a seal. This allows ballots to only enter the tabulator and drop down into the ballot box.

Election Day performance
The tabulator ran fairly smoothly and without issue for 12 hours the poll was open. After reading a ballot the tabulator requires 1-2 seconds until available for subsequent votes. This delay adds up when there is a long line of voters.

The tabulator ran smoothly for the first 500 votes. Then I experienced 15 minutes where it rejected every ballot. Only after I tried a different hand position was the situation resolved. The tabulator sits on top of the ballot box. There is not sufficient support for the entry tray to hold the ballot, so you need to support the ballot with your hand, and then feed the ballot into the tabulator. I found that if I held up the ballot on the left or right, while standing up, the machine would misread. Only when I sat down and supported the ballot from below with my hand, like a shelf, that the machine did not misread. A longer input shelf would have been helpful.

How Easy is the Tabulator to use?
Once set up and the poll is open, feeding in ballots is quite easy. In fact almost anyone can do it, but under supervision. There can often be misread or rejected ballots. I tested the tabulator’s ease of use with old and young people, all without issue. The tabulator, however, is not ready for general public use without supervision.

Ontario Provincial Election, 2022 June 02 used the Dominion Voting Imagecast Precinct tabulator machine. Final vote count printed on thermal paper, aka cash register receipt. Photo by Don Tai

Ontario Provincial Election, 2022 June 02 used the Dominion Voting Imagecast Precinct tabulator machine. Final vote count printed on thermal paper, aka cash register receipt. Photo by Don Tai

Overall Impressions
There is considerably more training and tech involved with this tabulator, but in the interest of faster results on election night, it was well worth the investment. As with all tech there is always something that can go wrong, so backup processes are required. I hope that in the future the Federal election will use similar machines. At the end of a long 13 hr day, election workers are dead tired and can make mistakes.

Notes:
-I had thought that because the tabulator only takes an “X” using a Sharpie on the ballot, that there would be many mismarked and spoiled ballots. Zeroes, check marks, and other non “X” marks are rejected by the tabulator. In my poll, there was surprisingly very few that had to be redone. Maybe this was a concern of mine that was unfounded.
-Remember to ask voters if they wrote an “X” in their ballot. Some older people actually forget to make their mark, then the tabulator DRO reads it into the machine, and hte vote is cast.

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