A few short days before Election Day, the Franklin County Board of Elections is in the midst of the massive process of ensuring that every registered voter can contribute to the tally.

A few short days before Election Day, the Franklin County Board of Elections is in the midst of the massive process of ensuring that every registered voter can contribute to the tally.

And as concerns over "rigged" elections play out in the national conversation about voting, board of elections leaders said they are "insulted" over the idea that their work could be easily altered.

The county is tasked with collecting votes from more than 800 precincts. Around 4,500 people will be working throughout the process that will not finish until provisional ballots are counted weeks after Nov. 8.

Director Edward Leonard called the idea of rigging an election "very insulting." Not only is the process designed to avoid such issues, he said, but the allegation also questions the board of elections' employees.

"The people here who run elections, they take great pride in doing this right," he said. "For someone to claim that we're doing it to favor one party or the other, to us, is annoying and insulting. This is what we do. This is what the people here do as their livelihood and they take great pride in it."

The idea of a hack or another means of gaining access to votes seems impossible to Leonard.

Not only are voting machines offline, but they also produce paper records. Any changes would have to be made in both the machines and paper copies, which are bagged, sealed and later delivered to the board of elections by one Democrat and one Republican who "actually have to ride together in the same car," according to Leonard.

"Technology and the individuals involved have made it incredibly difficult to rig an election," he said. "All of the equipment that's involved in the tabulation, none of it is connected to the internet. ... And so it's all self-contained. There are backups and backups and backups to the backups."

But the poll workers themselves are another line of security and provisional ballots serve as a fallback for any questionable votes, he said.

If poll workers don't see a name on their list or someone claims they were incorrectly counted as already voting, workers will give voters a provisional ballot that will be researched and counted in the days after the election. These potential votes are why the board only releases "unofficial" results on the night of the election.

The workers are encouraged to use provisional ballots whenever things are uncertain. Leonard said that option saves time and cuts down on any potential voter fraud attempts.

"If you're registered and you're coming back to the same polling location, someone is going to know, based on the poll book, you've already been here," he said. "They're not going to let you vote a second time or third time. And if you demand it, it's going to be provisional."

From gathering to counting the votes, the entire process is bipartisan.

The board of elections maintains a balance of Democrats and Republicans who work at the polls in a system that reaches to the top of the chain. To reach keys that access voting machines or ballot storage, both a Republican and a Democrat -- in this case, Leonard and Deputy Director David Payne -- need to put their hand on a scanner and use their own key.

"The benefit of it being bipartisan is that no one party is in complete control and no party is going to have an advantage over the other," Leonard said. "Even if it's a Republican secretary of state, because it's at the local level, you've got representatives from both parties making sure neither has an advantage."

Payne said he has heard the "rigged election" conversations and is just as confused by them. He said he sometimes sees people with concerns on social media, Facebook in particular, and tells them they should simply see how it all works.

"I say, 'Please, come into the Franklin County Board of Elections and take a tour,' " he said. "I have yet to have anyone take me up on that."

For Leonard, Payne and the rest of the board of elections, early voting has been and continues to be their priority. Early votes are expected to make up around 40 percent of Franklin County votes in this election, and Leonard said he hopes that number will continue to rise, making lines shorter and results quicker.

For those who are concerned about rumors that early or absentee votes don't count, Leonard hopes to restore reason.

"The thing people always wonder about is absentee votes," he said. "They say, 'Oh, absentee votes aren't counted,' when actually absentee votes are the first counted. ... The first results you see on election night are absentee votes."

In a presidential race with two historically unpopular candidates, board of elections rules mean that a vote for Mickey Mouse won't matter. Only certified write-in candidates -- there are around 18 for president in Franklin County -- will count.

"You've had instances where people have made up a name and drummed up a campaign to get someone as a write-in candidate and the person is a dog or it's a fictitious character," Leonard said. "In high school, we had Todd Smith and Todd Smith never existed. Everyone voted for him for prom king and class president and all that kind of stuff. To avoid that, you have to register."

For information about a ballot, procedures, precincts and other facts, visit vote.franklincountyohio.gov.

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