Dominion voting software can permit staff to manually adjust ballot returns during counting process

Process of "adjudication" allows for "resolution of voter intent."

Published: November 19, 2020 1:33pm

Updated: November 20, 2020 7:42am

Voting software deployed by the election hardware company Dominion Voting Systems can allow election staffers to manually adjust tally amounts while reviewing scanned ballot images, a process that the company says allows for "resolution of voter intent" in cases where ballot marks are unclear. 

Dominion has been at the center of tumultuous controversy since the election amid reports of glitchy and/or unreliable voting software and hardware. The company has a presence in a majority of U.S. states, including critical battleground states in which Democratic challenger Joe Biden has been declared the winner by major media outlets. 

President Trump has suggested that malfeasance by Dominion is responsible for the narrow edge in posted vote totals that Biden holds in those states. Dominion, meanwhile, has unequivocally denied any wrongdoing or errors within its machines. 

"No credible reports or evidence of any software issues exist," the company has stated on its website. "Dominion equipment is used by county and state officials to tabulate ballots. Human errors related to reporting tabulated results have arisen in a few counties, including some using Dominion equipment, but appropriate procedural actions have been taken by the county to address these errors were made prior to the canvass process."

The company also stated that "vote deletion/switching assertions" that have circulated since the election are "completely false." 

'Anybody who has Dominion has this'

The company has claimed that "it is not possible for a bad actor to change election results without detection." Dominion does, meanwhile, allow at least one avenue for manual adjustment of vote tallies as part of a process known as "adjudication." 

Santa Clara County, California, as part of its agreement with Dominion Voting Systems, stipulates that the company's software must allow county staff "to adjust tally based on review of scanned ballot images."

Evelyn Mendez, the public information officer for the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, said that "the wording [in the contract] is a little weird," but that it refers to a provision meant to ensure that "adjudication" of uncertain votes can occur. 

Adjudication, Mendez told Just the News, is used in circumstances such as when there’s a contest in which a single candidate must be chosen yet "someone votes for two."

"It’s the process of looking at the ballot and determining, 'Did the voter mean to do that'?" she said. 

"If someone puts in a dot instead of a checkmark," she added, "or if they didn’t bubble it the right way, our staff are looking at the ballot and confirming what's correct." 

Mendez, who stressed that staffers are looking not at actual ballots but at scanned images of them, said that the process is performed by two individuals. 

"Two people, one on the mouse and one on the clicker, are looking at the same screen, talking about the same ballot, determining the voter’s intent," she said. "It’s a manual view of what voters meant to do. If staffers can’t figure out what to do, it goes to another level where further county officials can adjudicate it."

Mendez confirmed that adjudication adjustments are done manually by staffers. 

Dominion did not return multiple requests for comment on Wednesday and Thursday, including emails, a phone call and a voicemail. Just the News sought to learn more about the process, including whether or not all counties that contract with Dominion are given similar tally adjustment access.

Mendez, meanwhile, said such contractual stipulations are common. 

"This is normal," she said. "Anybody who has Dominion has this. We’re not the only county that has to adjudicate ballots."

The company on its website lays out its system for adjudicating votes, what it calls "an efficient, auditable process for ballots that meet customizable outstack conditions based on jurisdictional needs."

The system "allows for efficient processing of ballots that require resolution of voter intent during the post-voting stage of an election," the company says in a brochure advertising its adjudication software. 

"Anyone reviewing a ballot will be able to see how the voter marked their ballot, how the scanner interpreted the intent, and how the ballot was adjudicated," the brochure reads. 

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