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Counted On: The Final Tally

From the voting machine to the official numbers - see how a VA registrar counts each vote on election night.
Posted at 5:05 PM, Nov 05, 2020

"We are so divided right now," Dianna Moorman, the Director of Elections for James City County, VA told Newsy in a recent interview. "And we need to know that the election process was done correctly and that the proper person got put into office that was elected." 


Newsy spent election day following the staff at the county elections office, where 60% of registered voters had already cast their ballots in the 45 days leading up to Election Day. After receiving an oath at 3:00 PM, a group of about a dozen citizens began counting those ballots.

"It is 7:06. And polls closed six minutes ago. We have no lines throughout the entire county. So what all of our election officers are currently doing is they are working quickly but methodically to do all the paperwork, to close out all of the machines," Moorman told us.

With an alert on her cell phone, the numbers started to coming in. Moorman records the unofficial tallies from each precinct, then passes the record onto her deputy who works with the county clerk to enter them into the state database. Later, they will crosscheck the numbers with the tape printed by each machine.

Moorman recalls the registrar's prayer for us, "May the election be smooth and the margins be wide. I don’t know if we have the smooth part down... Well, I don’t know that we have the wide either."

Moorman said the in-person voting is wrapping up sooner than usual. "We've already had multiple precincts, already returned their supplies back to us, and we are in the final stages of entering results, which is huge on a presidential election night." Meanwhile, the mail-in and early vote count continues. 

"We only have 20 percent of our entire locality that is showing us results right now. We still have the other outstanding 63 percent that's upstairs being processed. It takes one precinct to sway and flip it on its end. So now you extrapolate that out to all the other localities and it would not be a surprise for it to shift.

When they finally get the absentee numbers at 10:45, the office is nearly empty. Moorman hands them to her deputy, Sheila Lohr, who enters them into the database. After reading the numbers back she quietly says, "Alright, that does it." And the last tallies of the night have been recorded.

At 11:30 PM, Lohr and Moorman have been working for 19 hours. And their work on this election is not yet done. They won't be able to certify until Friday - that's the last day they can receive ballots that have been postmarked by November 3.