Hawaii Votes EP. 5 – April 2022 – Election Security
This month, we take a closer look at election security with a focus on voter registration, voting by mail, and voting equipment.
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Hello and welcome to the Hawaii Votes program, brought to you by the State of Hawaii Office of Elections. In this series, we cover all things voting & serve as your guide through the 2022 Election year.
We’re your hosts, Jaime and Ray, and today’s episode is all about election security. With the misinformation surrounding elections nationwide, we’ll use this episode to pose a number of common questions and help you get a clearer understanding of the measures election officials have in place to protect your vote.
We have a lot of ground to cover, so we’ll break the discussion down into three major categories.
Ray, give us a run thru of the major election security areas we’ll be discussing today.
The three categories are:
Mail ballots, and
Voting equipment and results
Topic 1: Voter registration and election security
The first area of election security that we’ll explore is voter registration. Specifically, we’ll uncover the role that registration plays in upholding the integrity of elections.
How does voter registration uphold the integrity of elections?
To vote in a Hawaii election, you must first be registered to vote in the state. With that said, voter registration in itself is a safeguard. Registration ensures that once a person is eligible to vote, only then will that person be provided the opportunity to vote.
The qualifications to vote in Hawaii are that you must be a U.S. citizen, a resident of Hawaii, and at least 18 years old.
At the time of registration, every applicant must attest that the information provided is true and correct. Falsifying any information, including falsely attesting that you meet the eligibility requirements, is considered voter fraud. County election officials have the authority to conduct investigations into claims of fraudulent registrations. Any person who deliberately provides false information when registering to vote may be guilty of a Class C felony.
How can voters be confident that voter registration records are accurate?
Every election year, all registered voters are sent a notice to the mailing address on their voter record. The notice states your name, address, and voting district.
This mail notice is one of several procedures election officials use to perform maintenance of the registration records. As a registered voter, when you receive and accept the notice of voter registration, you are acknowledging that your voter registration is current, and your voter record remains active. If you receive a mail notice for an individual who no longer lives at your residence, write “not at this address” on the card, and place it back in the mail.
Election mailings are non-forwardable, so if you moved and did not update your voter registration, your mail notice would be returned, and your voter record flagged. Once your record is flagged, officials send a second mail notice by forwardable mail, which will allow you to update your registration. If you fail to update your registration after two general elections, you are removed from the voter rolls and would need to re-register to be eligible to receive a mail ballot in the future.
It’s important that we make the clear distinction here that voters are not removed or purged from the voter rolls for not voting. List maintenance is performed only to remove outdated voter records, not to remove individuals who do not vote in an election.
Sending mail notices is just one of the systems in place to keep voter records accurate. As we shared earlier, election mailing procedures are carried out every election year, which is every even-numbered year for Hawaii voters. However, list maintenance is ongoing.
Election offices work collaboratively with a number of government agencies in an ongoing effort to keep voter records accurate. Examples of this include the Department of Health providing death records, and the Department of Justice providing information of felony convictions.
And with the recent adoption of automatic voter registration into law, the measures to keep voter records accurate continues to improve in Hawaii. Automatic voter registration allows those applying for a driver’s license or state ID to update their voter registration at the same time, streamlining the process.
Topic 2: Mail ballots and election security
The second area of election security that we’ll explore are the security measures in place for mail ballots.
Question #1: How is voting by mail kept secure?
Signature verification is a key security measure of voting by mail.
In order to be counted, the return envelope that holds your voted ballot must be signed, as your signature confirms your identity.
After you return your voted ballot, your County Elections Division compares the signature on the return envelope against the signature on file with your voter registration record.
If the signatures match, your ballot will be counted. If the signatures do not match, you will be notified by County Election Officials and have up to five business days after election day to correct it. In rare circumstances, a mismatched signature may indicate voter fraud, in which case we would notify the proper authorities for investigation as it is a felony to forge signatures on a ballot.
As a side note, the signature on your voter record is typically captured from an official government document, for example your application for a Hawaii Driver’s License or State ID. In other cases, that signature may be pulled from your original voter registration application.
What prevents a person from voting more than once?
There’s a misconception that voting by mail opens more opportunity for voter fraud. These claims suggest that voting by mail enables a person to more easily vote more than once given they are not required to show up to an in-person voting location.
Contrary to these claims, record of ballot return ensures that one voter equals one vote. How does this prevent multiple voting attempts?
A unique barcode is printed on your ballot return envelope, which allows officials to track the return of your ballot. When election officials receive your voted mail ballot, the barcode is scanned, and a record is kept that you have cast a ballot for that election.
Jaime, how about if someone were to vote in person, and also submit a mail ballot? What would prevent that person from voting twice?
Because ballot returns are recorded, officials can quickly identify and prevent a voter from multiple attempts to cast a ballot. For example, if you were to submit a mail ballot, then attempt to vote at a voter service center, you would not be permitted to vote that second time. In a similar scenario, if you were to vote at a voter service center, then proceed to submit a mail ballot, the mail ballot would be rejected, as the voter’s record would indicate they have already voted.
The processes we outlined here with signature verification and keeping record of a ballot’s return occur simultaneously once your voted ballot is processed by election officials. These procedures provide officials multiple fronts for maintaining security of mail ballots.
Topic 3: Voting equipment and election security
The third and final area of election security that we’ll explore is the security of the vote counting equipment and election results.
How can we be confident that vote counting is accurate?
Before each election, the voting equipment used for counting ballots and tabulating results is tested to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the result reports.
Testing is conducted by Official Observers, who bring transparency to the process by serving as the eyes and ears of the public. Official Observers include representatives of political parties and the media, and community groups and organizations.
There are several tests conducted by Official Observers to ensure the logic and accuracy of voting equipment:
The Official Observers’ test
The Statewide Observers’ test, and
Pre-Election and Post-Election tests
The Official Observers’ test verifies the logic and accuracy of the in-person voting equipment used at voter service centers. The Statewide Observers’ test verifies the logic and accuracy of the voting equipment used to count mail ballots. And Pre-Election and Post-Election tests are administered prior to counting ballots and again once all ballots are counted to provide further assurance of the integrity of the vote counting system.
Additionally, after each election, audits are conducted on at least 10% of precincts randomly selected. These regularly scheduled manual audits are mandated by Hawaii election law to confirm the election results.
Let’s recap what we’ve covered today:
#1: Election officials conduct regular maintenance of voter registration records through mail notices and data from other government agencies. List maintenance ensures that voter records are current and ensures that all properly registered voters are mailed a ballot.
#2: Signature verification compares the signature on your voted mail ballot to a signature on your voter record. A signature match must occur for your ballot to be counted. Additionally, a unique barcode is printed on your ballot return envelope to track whether you have voted or not, preventing any occurrence of voting more than once.
#3: Logic and accuracy tests are carried out by community representatives, commonly referred to as Official Observers, prior to each election.
Topic 4: How you can help
Now that you’re equipped with facts about election security, do your part to address election misinformation by sharing what we covered today. Use your voice and help spread the confidence and trust that is important for our elections to thrive.
Be mindful that information shared by unofficial sources may not always be accurate, and remember to seek election information from trusted sources, such as the Office of Elections and the County Elections Divisions.
What else can you do to maintain the integrity of our elections? Verify your voter registration. The simple act of confirming your information is current helps to ensure that Hawaii’s voter records are accurate, and that every eligible voter is provided their right to vote.
Thank you for joining us today! Follow us on social media at elections808 and visit our website at elections.hawaii.gov for all things Hawaii elections. We’ll see you in the next one. Thanks!