Q&A of the Day – Voting Machines Used in Elections 

Today’s entry: Having recently voted, I was wondering are the voting machines Dominion? What degree of confidence can voters in Florida have that Dominion results will be tabulated correctly? Granted we have paper ballots to back up the Dominion tabulated results but what has to happen to activate a manual count? 

I love your comprehensive, fact-based analysis of topics. 

Bottom Line: I’ll pick up on that last line and start there in addressing your questions. Given that there are two sides to stories and one side to facts, I’ll start by saying, yes Dominion voting systems are in use here and that there’s reason to be highly confident in the outcome of Florida’s elections. There are currently two voting systems which are certified by the State of Florida’s Division of Elections. Dominion Voting Systems and Election Systems & Software. There’s a third company, Clear Ballot Group which is currently under testing by the state of Florida, the official audit review of their software began May 17th, but that is not currently authorized for use within Florida. And it’s that process that I’ll start with in addressing the concerns about Dominon or any other voting system that’s used in Florida. Here’s what must happen in order to be authorized for use in our elections according to the Florida Division of Elections... 

  • If a vendor of a voting system wants to sell their voting system in Florida, that vendor must first submit an application to our office for testing and approval of that system.   
  • After a completed application is submitted, but before testing begins, the vendor seeking certification in Florida for a voting system must send to the Florida Department of State the original software and firmware from a Voting System Testing Lab certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.  
  • The State tests voting systems based on the requirements in state law and rule. The State tests a voting system’s security, safeguards, data encryption, and ensure the system is secure and that it accurately counts votes. 
  • As an added measure of precaution, all members of the testing and certification team are required to pass a level-two criminal background check. 

From there if a voting system is certified by the state, election supervisors may use the voting systems. So, in determining the viability and security of these systems they first under go a vetting process by the federal government and subsequent to the federal government there’s an additional vetting process with the state government. And I thought it was instructive to mention the timeline that goes into the state’s vetting process as well. As mentioned, the Clear Ballot Group’s software has been in active testing since May 17th and a final determination hasn’t been made. It’s anything but a rubber stamp process. As stated by the Florida Division of Elections... 

Security of our voting systems is a top priority in Florida. Voting system software is only issued to county Supervisors of Elections by the Florida Department of State through a “trusted build” process - a secure and well-documented closed chain-of-custody process followed before, throughout, and after installation of new equipment or software. 

And as for what happens when it’s go time: 

Before each election, a county must perform what is called a Logic and Accuracy Test. The purpose of this test is to make sure that ballots are printed correctly and that the voting system is counting votes correctly. This test is publicly noticed in advance and open to the public. See section 101.5612, Florida Statutes. A backup copy of the elections database is sent to the Division of Elections each time a county completes this test. This backup copy is stored for disaster and recovery purposes. 

After each election, the county must perform a voting system audit. The purpose of this audit is to check that the equipment and procedures accurately recorded and counted the votes. In Florida, counties have the choice of doing a manual audit or an automated independent audit: 

A manual audit process involves a public hand count of the votes cast in in one or more randomly selected precincts in one randomly selected race that appears on a ballot. 

So, the process is transparent and you’re personally able to review this process. Now, you’d also referenced Florida’s paper ballot backup and wondered when a manual recount might occur. State law calls for an automatic recount in races decided by a half point or less and a hand recount when it’s under a quarter of one percent. There are a host of other occasions when a manual recount might ensue under state law as well but for the ease of conversation, that’s the most common occurrence. In terms of accuracy, we just happened to have a recount in one of last week’s primary races that provided an illustration.  

In the Republican primary in the 22nd District a total of 34,547 votes were cast. In the recount, the variance from the original count was two votes. Not perfect, but that’s obviously pretty darn accurate. I understand the concerns that were voiced regarding Dominion voting machines going back to the 2020 election cycle, however as I pointed out back then, the only machines which were shown to be of potential concern were legacy Sequoia machines – not Dominion machines. Dominion purchased Sequoia over a decade ago which is what led to their being cited as part of the saga that played out with concerns and conspiracies being voiced in the wake of the 2020 elections. No Sequoia software is in use in Florida. 

Hopefully that breakdown helps. Like you, I view paper ballot backups as being critical for election integrity and don’t take anything for granted. That said there’s reason to believe the current systems being used in Florida along with the checks and balances in place are effective sufficiently to provide appropriate election integrity. 

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.  

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com  

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American political rally with VOTE signs

Photo: Getty Images

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