What Happens When Polling Sites Close?
Most Puerto Rican voters will face for the first time on Tuesday electronic-scrutiny technology for the first time on general elections, if they didn’t participate on the primaries process last June.
Beyond the interaction with the electronic-scrutiny machine, in which voters will have to introduce their ballot after they exert their right, this technology brings a series of changes in vote counting.
Caribbean Business asked Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Electoral Commissioner candidate Guillermo San Antonio Acha to explain what happens with the ballots after polling sites close, and he assured he fully trusts the electronic-scrutiny process because it is supervised by public security agencies to prevent hackers’ intervention in the process.
3:00 p.m.: Polling sites close
At 3:00 in the afternoon, polling sites will close, but their officials must wait until all voters who have arrived in time exercise their right to vote, which may take one or two additional hours, explained San Antonio Acha.
Once the last voters introduce their ballots into the electronic-scrutiny machine and the college officials finish counting, the apparatus closes and the act is printed. This act includes the quantity of ballot papers, which helps officials complete the ballot assortment (how many were used, how many were disposed of, and how many were left over).
4:00 a 5:00 p.m.: Electronic result transmission begins from the polling sites
After printing the summary from each-electronic scrutiny machine, the apparatus connects to a modem that will ask if it wants to transmit the results to the State Elections Commission (CEE by its Spanish acronym).
Even though there are 27 identified places that lack proper cellphone signal for the results transmission, the PDP electoral commissioner explained they will try to transmit directly from the 5,296 polling sites, grouped in 1,501 units or voting centers.
If any machine has problems sending results, electoral officials will have to move it to the corresponding Permanent Inscription Board (JIP by its Spanish initials), which will be guarded by the Police, to transmit from there via Internet to the CEE.
“If the transmission is interrupted, and the CEE doesn’t receive the results, what appears is a damaged file, a damaged transmission. It has to begin to transmit from zero again so the CEE can accept the result. It has to be a perfect transmission, from zero to one hundred. If there is no signal, they will have to go to the JIP: the [memory] card is removed from the electronic-scrutiny machine and results are transmitted via internet,” detailed San Antonio Acha.
After concluding result transmissions, all machines will be taken to the JIP.
Electronic-scrutiny machines have an urn divided in three compartments. The first compartment has ballots whose votes may be adjudicated as integros (single party vote), blank or mixed. These ballots are guarded in plastic bags and taken to the CEE after concluding the voting process. They may be consulted if a recount is requested.
The second compartment stores write-in nominations. These ballots will be taken to the CEE to adjudicate direct-nomination votes during the general scrutiny process the day after the elections.
The third compartment is reserved for emergencies. San Antonio Acha said it will be used if the machine faces problems or paralyzes, so ballots can be introduced to this compartment for counting after the technological problem is solved.
“The electronic-scrutiny machine captures or scans every ballot on both sides. That is why it takes five or ten seconds to read the ballot. It’s not that it delays in reading, it is that it is saving it in its memory card. It has two memory cards, to have redundancy. We have the physical ballot that is stored and guarded, and two cards with the ballot and time of introduction,” said the PDP electoral commissioner.
7:00 p.m.: 80% of results are expected
The CEE has informed it expects between 70 and 80 percent of results around 7:00 or 7:30 p.m., which will depend on the polling sites’ closing time.
While voters participate on the general election, CEE officials will be counting advanced, absent and bedridden votes, as well as imprisoned people’s votes, so they can be included on the preliminary results.
The PDP electoral commissioner indicated that as a security measure, electronic-scrutiny machines won’t be connected to any network until the summary is printed, so external interventions don’t affect the process.
He added that technology possesses “really strong security controls,” in addition to being monitored by the government’s security agencies, to prevent hackers from affecting the electoral results.
“The possibility is remote, but we are always prepared,” he affirmed.