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Actual Vote FAQ's

Q: What does Actual Vote do?

A. In many states and counties, polling places and vote counting centers are required by law to make voting results publicly available, often in the form of ‘poll tapes’, which look like long cash register receipts, but also in other formats. Actual Vote allows volunteers to make recordings of these results and upload them to our website for later comparison with official results.

By comparing the recorded results with official results, volunteers can identify discrepancies, which may be due to fraud or error, then take appropriate action. Even when no discrepancies are found, Actual Vote serves as a deterrent to attempted manipulation.

Q: Is it legal to make recordings of voting results?

A. Yes, voting results are public information and when displayed in a public place, there is no restriction on making recordings of them. Actual Vote may also be used wherever photography is not explicitly prohibited.
The general rule in the United States is that anyone may take photographs of whatever they want when they are in a public place or places where they have permission to take photographs. Absent a specific legal prohibition such as a statute or ordinance, you are legally entitled to take photographs. Examples of places that are traditionally considered public are streets, sidewalks, and public parks. Property owners may legally prohibit photography on their premises but have no right to prohibit others from photographing their property from other locations. Whether you need permission from property owners to take photographs while on their premises depends on the circumstances. In most places, you may reasonably assume that taking photographs is allowed and that you do not need explicit permission. However, this is a judgment call and you should request permission when the circumstances suggest that the owner is likely to object. In any case, when a property owner tells you not to take photographs while on the premises, you are legally obligated to honor the request.

Bert P. Krages II Attorney at Law 6665 S.W. Hampton Street, Suite 200 Portland, Oregon 97223 © 2003 Bert P. Krages II

Q: Where and when are voting results displayed?

A: At most polling places, voting results are posted publicly on an outside surface such as a wall or door, or sometimes behind a window, once counting has completed. Because officials do not always take weather into account, it is vitally important to make recordings as soon as polling places close to avoid possible loss due to wind or rain. Vote counting centers, unlike polling places, take much more time before making voting results available and may only do so upon request. In either case, contacting your local election officials and planning ahead for any contingency is recommended.

Q: Who can use Actual Vote?

A: Every poll watcher and every person interested in preserving the integrity of the vote counting and reporting process can use Actual Vote. No permission is required because poll tapes are public information.

Q: Can I use Actual Vote even if the precincts in my area don’t post poll tapes?

A: Right now, for example, under Texas law, posting poll tapes is not required. So Actual Vote users in Texas are likely to find that poll tapes in their area aren’t posted on election night. But there’s still something they can do. As soon as possible after the election, they can go to their local Registrar of Voters office and request to see all of the poll tapes, and take Actual Vote videos of a random sample of them. This random sample can be analyzed just like other Actual Vote videos. If evidence of potential foul play is uncovered in this way, these users can go back to their local Registrar of Voters office and video record all of the poll tapes.

People in other areas may have the option to do the same process. Contact your local Registrar of Voters for details.
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