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Live on Webcams: Election Officials Count 2020 Ballots

To boost voter confidence, election officials in numerous counties are taking transparency to the ultimate level, installing live cameras in the rooms where ballots are sorted, verified and counted.

Election officials in most states are administering two elections this season. One follows the established pattern for their district, and the other is a hybrid incorporating absentee and mail-in vote processing on an unprecedented scale.

A week before the election 66 million Americans had already voted, 44 million by mail. Depending on the state, and any new rules put in place for 2020, some of these ballots are already being processed and counted.

Despite an abundance of evidence that fraud is almost non-existent in mail-in voting, an Economist/YouGov poll published on Oct. 29 found that one in 10 voters were not confident that their vote would be counted correctly. Supporters of the president are especially concerned about the counting of mail-in votes.

With the help of an expanding digital toolbox, this year, election officials have done more than ever to help voters understand what happens to their ballots, and to assure them of the security and diligence with which they are handled. A number have gone so far as to install cameras in the rooms where processing is done, allowing voters keep watch at any time of the day or night.

Live Streaming in L.A. County

There’s no hand wringing about the outcome of the presidential election in California, but there are several high-stakes propositions on the ballot, addressing issues ranging from property tax, rent control and cash bail to stem cell research and employment rules for app-based drivers. 

Los Angeles County is the nation’s biggest voting district, and nearly two million vote-by-mail ballots have already been returned. The county is live streaming vote by mail operations.

The view inside an LA County mail-in ballot processing room.

13 Video Feeds in Maricopa County, Ariz.

Both parties consider a win in Arizona to be crucial to victory, and a win in Maricopa County is essential to attaining this goal. The choices made by its Latino voters may be the deciding factor in the outcome. Some observers believe that the president’s support for anti-immigrant sheriff Joe Arpaio could cost him, others believe Biden has not done enough to build support in this community.

The suspense will end before long, and in the meantime voters in the county can binge watch 13 video feeds, covering the processes of signature verification, early ballot counting and ballot tabulation.

Early ballot processing in Maricopa County.

Detailed View in King County, Wash.

Washington state voters have been casting ballots by mail for a decade. When the pandemic spawned an urgent and unforeseen need to increase vote-by-mail efforts across the country, many states turned to Washington for advice.

The King County website offers livestream views of every step involved in its well-honed process for counting mail-in ballots, from sorting to verifying signatures on the outside, opening and reviewing ballots, then scanning and tabulating them.  


Signature verification of King County mail-in ballots. Livestream available here. Photo: King County.

Video Tours in Denver

An “Abolish the Police” demonstration in Denver turned violent in August, with some protesters armed with guns, explosives and other weapons. The city’s public safety director has not forgotten this turn of events and announced that police in the city are on “high alert” due to the possibility that thousands of protestors could swarm the streets to dispute the election outcome. 

To assure voters the counting is secure and the results can be trusted, the Denver Elections Division has posted video tours of each step of vote processing, as well as a livestream view that takes viewers inside each of the rooms where this work is conducted. 

Simultaenous views of multiple Denver election processing rooms.

More Ballot Counting Feeds from Around the Country

Philadelphia City Commissioners Live Stream
Jefferson County, KY: Absentee Ballot Processing Live Stream

Ada County, ID: Ballot Cameras (13)

Union County, NJ: Tabulation Machine Live Stream

Whatcom County, WA: Ballot Sorter

State of Arizona: Links to webcams in every county of the state.

Carl Smith is a senior staff writer for Governing and covers a broad range of issues affecting states and localities. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @governingwriter.
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