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MAR 22

 Learning About Memory Cards

  posted by Sheila Parks on March 22, 2010 4:43 as 2010 MA Senate Election

This is a non-scientific, non random report about two jurisdictions and what they did with their memory cards both before the election and after the polls closed on election night, January 19, 2010. In each case, I talked by telephone with the Clerk of the jurisdiction. I talked three times with the Clerk of the first jurisdiction and twice with the clerk of the second jurisdiction.

At the first jurisdiction, there are four registrars. Three of the registrars are appointed by the Selectpeople; the fourth is the Town Clerk. The Town Clerk tells the registrars what precincts to go to. Each registrar goes alone to their respective precincts to pick up the memory cards. They usually go to the same precint(s) every year. The registrars take the memory cards out of the computers, in the presence of the one police person at the precinct and other poll workers at that precinct and transport it back to the Selectpeople's room. In response to my question, "Is there only one person who does this, I was told that it had never been discussed that only one person picks up the memory cards. The Clerk said it was a state thing then backed off and said it had never been discussed.

There are two people called tabulators, who come in after the polls close at 8PM. One of the tabulators was a town employee, the other not, although this person worked at Town Hall. The tabulators put the memory cards into the GEMS and then do the print-out of information, whatever information the Town Clerk wants. The clerk then puts the memory cards in the vault, which is where records are kept. It is a small vault that opens with a combination. There is a town election coming up soon and so the clerk will send the memory cards back to LHS, she said. The memory cards must be kept 30 days, she said in response to my question.

At the second jurisdiction, the Clerk said the memory cards stay in the machine and come back to the clerk's office by police officer, but the clerk might take them out a couple of days later. One police officer accompanies each machine. Sometimes the clerk puts the memory cards in her top drawer. The memory cards have to be held for 15 days or so, she said, then they are sent off to LHS. The clerk also said that the memory cards are kept in the vault. When they take the machines out and take the memory cards out, they enclose the memory cards in the packages they came in and they stay in the drawer until sent back to LHS. This jurisdiction has four precincts, so they have eight memory cards, four back ups and four regular ones. Back up memory cards are in case something happens and she has to go on election day and replace a memory card. Back up memory cards stay in her (the Clerk's) desk until they go back to LHS. No one touches the memory cards but the election staff.

They put the memory cards into the machines to do testing, at least five days before the election. Then the memory cards stay in the machines and all go back into the vault. The memory cards are taken out of the machines the day before the election in order to charge the machine. At that time the memory cards are in the clerk's office. Memory cards are on top of the machine out in the open, while machines are charging six hours and someone is in the office all this time. Once the machines are charged, the memory cards go back in the machines and then the machines go back into the vault. A combination opens the vault every day and closes it every night. They did not change the combination when she came, she said in response to my specific question about this. The vault has a heavy door, made of steel, is big and thick and fire proof. After the combination, she pulls a leer down and it opens up. There are gated doors inside for various departments.

After the election, at 8PM when the polls close, the memory cards stay in the machine because they take the printouts off the machine. Then the ballot box is taken off the machine - it slides off. The machine is put in its suitcase and the memory cards are still in the machine. Then the machines, with the memory cards still in, go back to Town Hall. The ballot boxes stay at the high school. The custodians have a separate room where they keep them, with other voting paraphernalia, like signs, yellow ropes, etc. Ballot boxes are empty. What stays in the vault are the machines themselves.

She is not sure how many days they have to wait in this election before they send memory cards back to LHS. Depending on what kind of election, the memory cards are kept different amounts of time.

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