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Ballot Counting

Election officials have many safeguards in place to ensure only legitimate ballots are included in election results. 

Published: March 26, 2024
View the entire Election Rumors in 2024 series

Fact: Election officials have many safeguards in place to ensure only legitimate ballots are included in election results.

Ballots are not just sent to anyone; each ballot is linked to one voter to ensure that no one submits more than one ballot. Election officials use “chain of custody” procedures to track the transfer of both mail and in-person ballots from one election worker to the next and prevent any interference with sensitive materials. While practices vary by jurisdiction depending on what is most secure for their community and system, all states allow for observation of Election Day procedures. Nearly all states allow representatives from political parties to observe ballots being counted. Election officials also clean the voter rolls on a regular basis.

When errors do occur, a robust system of checks and balances exists to catch and remedy them. Just like pilots use preflight checklists to ensure the safety of each flight, checklists give election officials confidence that best practices have been followed. 

Rumor: Illegitimate ballots are counted in election results. 

Despite running the most secure election in U.S. history in 2020, election officials have since been targeted by a campaign to undermine faith in election results. False allegations — often based on manipulated or deliberately misconstrued video content — that election officials fraudulently fill out ballots, hide them, and then “find” them have proliferated online. 

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We worked with Swayable, a research software platform that measures how effectively media content changes opinions, to determine what messages helped voters best understand the facts.

Suggested counter-message based on our testing:

  • Election officials have a system of checks and balances to prevent ballot tampering.

The message above was found to be most effective in communicating the facts, though differences exist by region and demographic group. See Swayable’s dashboard to examine more detailed results, including other messages tested.