Oregonians are returning their ballots at a faster pace so far than either of the past two presidential elections.

As of Friday, a little more than 16 percent of registered voters statewide had returned their ballot. In Marion County, which has the state’s fifth largest number of registered voters, the return rate was approaching 19 percent.

But what happens to all those ballots before they get counted?

Marion County Clerk Bill Burgess said when ballots arrive, the bar code on the outside of the return envelope is scanned to record that voter as having voted. Then, if the signature matches the one on file and there are no additional issues, the ballots are sorted by precinct, placed into cardboard trays, and stacked on metal carts.

The ballots will be opened and counted starting Nov. 1.

Burgess said they’re stored in a room that very few people have access to.

“It’s very important that we have control of the chain of custody and integrity of the ballots once they come through this door,”  he said.

Security is so tight even the custodians don’t have a key, said Burgess. That means elections workers have to take out the trash and vacuum the floors.

“When you’re signing up to work with us,” he said, “you’re signing up to do anything and everything that needs to be done.”

The ballots are also monitored via security cameras.

More than 2.5 million people are registered to vote in Oregon, the highest number for any election in the state’s history. You can track the status of your ballot, and find a drop box location, by visiting www.oregonvotes.gov.