With less than a week before midterms, Oregon elections officials say they’re fielding a higher-than-usual volume of calls about how votes are counted.
“There’s a lot of concern from the public that tabulation systems might be vulnerable to hacking, or that they might be programmed in such a way as to deliver false results; this is misinformation,” said Dan Forester, Washington County elections manager, during an interview with OPB’s Think Out Loud.
Misinformation around elections has risen since former President Donald Trump lost his re-election bid in 2020 and began pushing false claims that American elections are rife with fraud. Election workers in Oregon and across the country have faced more scrutiny because of those false claims.
Forester and other officials have said there are numerous safeguards to ensure ballot-counting machines in Oregon are accurate. For instance, they’re not connected to the internet or any network that can be hacked. There are also several internal and public tests leading up to an election.
Forester said Washington County runs about 4,500 ballots through each of its six tabulating machines about a month before Election Day. Some of the test ballots are blank, and some are filled out to test various voting patterns — like if someone marks more than one choice in a contest, or doesn’t fill out a choice at all.
Elections officials are also required by state law to perform multiple public tests. During these tests, members of the public can watch officials run test ballots through counting machines and analyze the results to verify their accuracy.
Forester said Washington County does two public tests before any ballots are tabulated, then another one at the certification deadline.
“If we do the test at the beginning and the end and we get the same results, we can demonstrate that the machines have been working correctly for the whole election,” Forester said.
Elections officials also run audits after an election, during which they test a small number of ballots to ensure their accuracy.
Oregon voters have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to take their ballot to a drop box or have their ballots postmarked.