Whether you’ve voted many times over the years or this will be your first time casting a ballot, you might be wondering about the equipment involved.
Will you know how to use it? Will you know what to expect? Will the machine properly count your vote?
Rest assured, these systems are made to be user-friendly and easy to figure out. If you find yourself confused come Election Day (or at early voting), you can always ask a poll worker your questions.
In Virginia, the state primarily uses optical ballot scanning machines, according to this elections website.
Here’s how it works: An optical ballot scanning machine counts marks made on paper by the voter. The tool used to make these marks is called a marking device.
That’s a fancy way of saying that you’ll vote on a hand-marked paper ballot, your choices will be scanned into the machine, and that’s how your vote is counted.
For people with disabilities who wish to vote privately and independently, a Ballot Marking Device and System would be used. Read more about BMDs.
There is another way, used in other states: A direct recording electronic (DRE) voting system is a vote-capture device that allows for the electronic presentation of a ballot and your electronic selections -- however, “The State Board of Elections has determined that (DRE) Systems no longer provide the security needed to ensure protection from third-party interference; thus, these systems were and remain decertified and prohibited from use in any election taking place in the Commonwealth,” this state handbook says.
Want to know more about these optical ballot scanning machines that we do use in Virginia?
A polling place typically only needs one machine, with certain exceptions: For example, in a presidential election, a precinct with more than 4,000 registered voters will be required to have two ballot scanning machines.
Otherwise, each precinct must have at least one scanner and one voting booth with a marking device for each 425 registered voters.
When it comes to approved vendors and such, each local electoral board can choose from the State Board of Elections' approved list.
Here’s a helpful state map from the website Verified Voting, showing how it works in each of Virginia’s counties.