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Election officials follow strict rules when it comes to ballot counting and reporting.

Local election officials will count your vote and report results. In most places, the initial vote count for paper ballots—which make up the majority of ballots in 2020—is conducted by ballot scanners.

State rules outline the timeline and process for ballot counting, including how teams of trained poll workers determine when a ballot that can’t be read by a scanner isn’t valid.

In most states, appointed candidate and political party representatives can observe the counting process in person to ensure that vote-counting teams remain impartial. You may be able to watch the counting process by a livestreamed video. Check with your local election officials to understand your options.

Many states conduct audits after the vote-counting process is finished. These audits are another check to ensure that the vote-counting process worked as intended.

For a detailed synopsis of the vote counting process, as well as recommendations for policymakers, see our August 2020 report on Counting the Vote During the 2020 Election.

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