ASHLAND -- While awaiting the results of the presidential election, an Ashland Source reader asked how the Ashland County Board of Elections protects its ballots.
“Can you write a story about how the Board of Elections maintain the integrity of the election? What precautions are put in place to make sure my vote is counted correctly?” the reader asked through Open Source. He indicated he'd like to remain anonymous.
In Ohio, President Donald Trump decidedly won the state's 18 electoral votes. Trump secured 53.4 percent of Ohio's votes, while Democratic candidate Joe Biden only received 45.2 percent, according to unofficial results as of noon Friday.
Specifically in Ashland County, Trump received 19,002 votes (73.41 percent), and Biden received 6,448 votes (24.91 percent). Other candidates received a combined 433 votes, according to the final unofficial results posted to the Ashland County Board of Elections website Tuesday night.
However, the margin appears tighter elsewhere. In Georgia, for instance, votes will be recounted. Friday morning, approximately 1,600 votes separated the presidential candidates with Biden ahead of Trump. About 4,169 votes were remaining. It also remains unclear who will win the electoral votes in Pennsylvania, Nevada and North Carolina
We posed the reader's question to Ashland County Board of Elections director Shannon Johnson in a Thursday interview.
"Everything we do we do as a team, and we always have someone with us as we do things. We’re never in a ballot room or a machine room or a tabulation room where there’s not equal parties there, and I feel that is what really keeps the balance. We just sort of watch out for each other," she said.
Later she continued, "You hear talk of voter fraud, and in actuality, it’s barely there. There are a lot of policies and procedures in place to ensure our election results are accurate."
Ashland has never experienced a case of voter fraud, Johnson explained.
At the Ashland County Board of Elections, the director and chairperson must be of opposite parties, and the four-person staff at the local office consists of two Republicans and two Democrats.
Poll workers are also instructed to work in teams of two -- one from each party.
"I know the dedicated staff that we have, the dedicated pollworkers we have, and I know that everyone wants to do this and wants to do it right. We take a lot of pride in this work," Johnson said. "We are kind of a political bunch. And we want to ensure and we work hard to ensure the elections are fair and accurate and open."
Preparing for an election begins months before election day.
"One of the things we do pre-election is we put all of our equipment through a logic and accuracy test," Johnson said.
It's a time-consuming process, but she says it's done to ensure the machines read ballots correctly.
"We always do that, and our results are always correct, and that makes me confident in the machines we are sending out on election day," she said.
In counting any and all votes, the staff must ensure the number of ballots received is the same as the number entered into the computer system.
A bipartisan team opened the mail-in ballots, Johnson said.
"There was a day when one of the ballots got slid too far back into the shelving unit," she said. "When we went to open them, we counted them. There were 15 ballots, 15 envelopes, and when we ran the report at the end of the night we were one ballot short.
"We found the ballot in the very back of the cubby hole. So every night, our numbers matched."
Post-election audits in Ashland have never found anything to indicate a different winner in any race, Johnson said. She started working for the Ashland County Board of Elections in 1999.