Voting Equipment & Process

Localities in Virginia are REQUIRED by law to use paper ballots, voting machines that accept paper ballots, and electronic pollbooks, all of which must have been reviewed/tested and certified by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Per Virginia Code, individual localities have no authority to certify, purchase, or implement systems that have not been expressly approved for use in the Commonwealth by the State Board of Elections.  As such, Roanoke County's Electoral Board and Elections staff cannot unilaterally decide to implement a process by which voted ballots are hand-counted, for example.  To learn more about the voting machines and electronic pollbook system used by Roanoke County, please read on. 

Voting Machines

Roanoke County utilizes the Unisyn OpenElect Freedom Vote Scan (FVS), which uses a marked paper ballot read by a light reader to record and count votes. One optical scanner is placed in every polling place. For voters with disabilities or who need to mark a provisional ballot, every precinct is also equipped with a Unisyn OpenElect Freedom Vote Tablet (FVT) which is capable of producing ballots that a voter can mark using several different interfaces (touch screen, audio, or sip and puff). The Unisyn OpenElect Freedom Vote system is certified by both the Federal Election Assistance Commission and the Virginia State Board of Elections.  

These machines utilize Unisyn software version 2.2, which was approved by the State Board of Elections in 2022 and will be introduced to all of Roanoke County's Early Voting & Election Day precincts beginning in 2024.

Roanoke County's voting machines are NEVER connected to the internet and undergo strict Logic and Accuracy (L&A) testing prior to every single election.  During L&A testing, we confirm that the machines have been programmed to accept only official Roanoke County ballots and that they properly read and accurately report exact election results. The L&A process is overseen by the Roanoke County Electoral Board and the chairs of both local political parties are invited to watch the process pursuant to Virginia Code. Once the Electoral Board has certified that each piece of equipment is in proper operating condition, that the tests were conducted appropriately, and that all necessary certification paperwork has been completed for each machine, the machines are then shut down, sealed to prevent unauthorized access, and then placed into their cases which are also secured with tamper-evident, numbered seals and placed in the secured equipment bins that are delivered to each polling place for Election Day.  Officers of election confirm that their equipment has the correct serial numbers and that all seals are intact and have not been tampered with prior to setting it up for use.

Items of Note:

  • Our voting machines have NO MEANS of connecting to the internet.
  • Our voting machines are not, do not, and CANNOT connect to the State's voter registration database.
  • Our voting machines are not, do not, and CANNOT connect to the State's results reporting website.  Preliminary election results are manually entered on the State's results reporting website by staff who use call-in totals reported from the precincts by Officers of Election on Election Night.  During the 7 day canvass of results that follows each Election Day, the Electoral Board uses the official, physical results tapes printed by each ballot scanner after the close of polls to make any necessary corrections to the preliminary results.  At the conclusion of canvass, the County's electoral board certifies the reported results as official, though it generally takes several more weeks for the State Board of Elections to meet, review, and certify the results of any state-wide or federal elections held in Virginia. 
  • Our voting machines are not, do not, and cannot connect to our pollbooks (which are used to check in-person absentee voters in and determine which precinct-specific ballot they should receive while ensuring that they have not already requested/returned an absentee ballot or voted absentee in-person).
  • Our voting machines and our electronic pollbook system operate independently of one another; there is no way to connect a voter who has been checked in and issued a ballot to that ballot once they have cast their vote by running their ballot through the voting machine.
  • Ballots cannot be inspected after they are run through the scanner as Virginia Code mandates that all counted ballots be sealed into containers and delivered to the Clerk of Court at the conclusion of the election.

To ensure that your vote was counted:

  • Carefully read the instructions on your ballot and ensure you fill in the ovals completely; be sure to check whether your ballot is double-sided to confirm that you have made a selection in all races in which you are eligible to participate.
  • If you make a mistake while marking your ballot, take it to an officer of the election and ask for a replacement; once your ballot is run through the scanner, you have voted and there is nothing we can do to help you.
  • If you think that you have been issued an incorrect ballot, take it to an officer of election and ask them to verify that you have been given the correct ballot and that it shows all of the races in which you are eligible to participate; once your ballot has been run through the scanner, you have voted and we can do no longer do anything to address your concerns.
  • Never abandon your ballot or leave it unattended in a polling place.
  • Wait until your ballot goes completely into the machine before leaving and the machine confirms that it has accepted your ballot.
  • Look for the 'Public Count' number on the screen of the scanner and make sure it increases by 1 after you have inserted and the machine has accepted your ballot; our machines display a message on the screens that say 'Thank you for voting!'. 

Electronic Pollbooks

Our electronic pollbooks are the DemTech ePollTab system. The electronic pollbooks allow election officers to quickly and accurately verify voter eligibility and identify any special circumstances which may warrant additional assistance. They are used to capture the official record of who voted in an election. Roanoke County uses this system in early voting and precincts on Election Day. The DemTech electronic pollbook system is certified by the Virginia State Board of Elections. (The Federal Election Assistance Commission does not have a certification program for electronic pollbook systems and Virginia is one of only eleven states that require that electronic pollbooks be built to a certain standard and undergo testing and certification procedures.)

Our pollbooks operate differently based on whether they are used during early voting or on Election Day.  

  • During early voting, pollbooks are connected to one another via a secure VPN with multi-layered, NIST P-521 Elliptic Curve encryption; this is done to ensure that a voter checked in to vote early at one location shows as having been checked in at the other early voting location so that voters cannot cast more than one ballot and is important because any Roanoke County voter is eligible to vote early in person at either our office in Vinton or at our satellite office at The Brambleton Center.  The tablets used in early voting run only the ePollTAB pollbook program itself and the network only allows licensed, known devices to connect to the network, which is continuously monitored for unauthorized attempts to access data. 
  • On Election Day, pollbooks are only networked to one another (not to the internet) within a single precinct to ensure that all pollbooks used in the precinct are up-to-date with current checked-in voters.

Items of Note:

  • The network used during early voting is tested prior to use, including an on-site inspection, connection, and speed test.
  • The electronic pollbook system is secure and utilizes several authentication factors to ensure that only approved and authorized devices can connect and/or access data.  
  • While it is possible that an unauthorized device might attempt to connect to the system, it is highly unlikely that it would succeed.  For example, in 2021, an election officer in Prince William County attempted to connect to the system during early voting several times to prove vulnerabilities but was unsuccessful each time. Those efforts were quickly discovered, and the officer was dismissed from service.  Furthermore, hacking into any government computer system is a crime at both the state and federal levels.
  • Electronic pollbooks are not connected to the voting machines – they aren’t built with the capability to connect to one another and never have or will be connected.  Pictures of a voter’s ballot or a record of which candidates a voter voted for are not stored on the electronic pollbook system as, again, the voting machine and pollbook systems operate completely independently of one another.
  • The electronic pollbook system is also not connected directly to the State’s voter registration system; all data transfers between the systems occur manually.

To help ensure that you are properly checked in:

  • Use an ID with a barcode (a Virginia Driver’s License or Identification Card issued by the DMV or a Virginia Voter Card issued by your local Department of Elections) when you check-in.  The officer of the election working check-in can scan that barcode to ensure that the correct voter is pulled up in our system.
  • State your full legal name and address clearly when asked to enable the officer to verify your identity and that they are checking in the right voter.
  • Listen when the officer of the election repeats your name back to you at check-in; this is the final check to ensure that they are checking the correct person in to vote.
  • Once you are checked in during early voting, a receipt will be printed with your full name, assigned precinct number, the date and time of your check-in, and a bar code that can be scanned to pull up your check-in record in the pollbook system and the ballot associated with your precinct will be sent to the ballot printer; this ensures that we have a record of all ballots printed and that you are given the appropriate ballot for your assigned voting precinct (since Roanoke County usually has at least 33-66 different ballot styles during any given election and our ePollTAB's Ballot on Demand system automatically ensures that you are given the correct one). If you vote at your assigned precinct on Election Day, you will be given your precinct’s designated ballot style once you are checked in – no receipts or ballot printers are required on Election Day. 
  • Verify that your voter registration record is up-to-date at least 22 days PRIOR to Election Day by visiting the Virginia Department of Elections’ Voter Information System at https://www.vote.elections.virignia.gov and making any necessary name or address changes so that you’ll be ready to vote when the time comes!