Sunday, 13 December 2015 00:00

Hand Counting Paper Ballots Is Not Impossible

Written by Mimi Kennedy

Find out. Learn how. Empower your activism for democracy. Citizen jurors sustain our legal system. Any system is corruptible. But governments corrupt when citizens withdraw from the process. And we have withdrawn from – been kicked out of – our vote-count. First, we must return to paper ballots.

Then we must learn to count them. Even long ballots in huge jurisdictions can be counted if an army of citizens is prepared and organized to do it under public view. Voter suppression is heinous and visible as election manipulation. Digital election fraud is perhaps more heinous for being invisible. Opti-scan counts of paper ballots may be desired for fast results, but redundant hand-counts must be the automatic check-and-balance as soon as possible. The welfare of the planet is at stake, and only we can deter election fraud in our elections by restoring the culture of hand-counting as patriotic action.

Gather some friends.


Easy, fast, transparent!


Choose a supervisor from the group.

The supervisor organizes teams of 4 who divide into pairs: 2 Sorters, 2 Observers. The Observers and Sorters sit side-by-side to view ballots.


Sorter begin sorting ballots by inspecting only the first ballot contest, Sorters make stacks for each candidate (or for Yes and No if it is a ballot question) and separate stacks for under-votes (voter made no choice in the contest); over-votes (voter made more choices than permitted in the contest) and write-ins.

Where voter’s intent is unclear, a majority of the team decides what to do. In a tie, the Counting Supervisor decides.

When all ballots are sorted and stacked for the first contest, the count begins!


Side-by-side Sorter/Observer re-team as Counters #1 #2 with different partners – those sitting across the table.

Counter #1 begins, with any sorted stack , to count ballots into piles of 10, eyeing each ballot to confirm it’s properly voted for the stack. Counter #1 slides completed piles of 10 across the table to Counter #2.

Counter #2 recounts each 10-pile to confirm it contains 10 ballots, also eyeing the ballots to see they belong in that pile. Confirmed 10-piles are placed, cross-wise, on top of one another to keep the piles visibly separate. Remainder ballots piles of less than 10 are counted, placed on top, and a post-it with the remainder number is stuck on top.

Counters #1 & 2 count the number of 10-piles, multiply the sum by ten, and add the remainder number to get vote totals for that candidate in that race.  

The total is entered next to the candidate’s name on the tally sheet (an unvoted ballot.)

This process is repeated for all stacks, including under-vote, over-vote, and write-ins. The results are entered on the tally sheet.  

The sum of all results, including “spoiled” under-and-over votes, should equal the total ballots counted at the table.


Counters #1 & #2 re-team with side partners as Sorter/Observers again. (Change roles if you wish!) Starting with the second race on the ballot, Sorters begin again to sort and stack by candidate, with Observers watching. When sorting is over, counting teams re-form and count again.

This process continues, alternating until all races are counted.

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