chain-of-custodyChain of custody: refers to the chronological documentation showing the collection, custody, control, transfer, analysis, and disposition of physical or electronic evidence. Chain of custody helps mitigate against alteration of records, substitution of records, removal of a portion of the record, or addition of false records.

Useful chain of custody methods include surveillance video; conducting election business in open public meeting; and, to some extent, physical security measures can be helpful, such as locks and seals and sign-in/out sheets

For elections to be accountable to the public, chain of custody should be observable and publicly authenticatable just like vote counts and voter participation records.


2016-07-04  – About Chain of Custody – Describes  basic concepts for election chain of custody.

2016-11-24 – About recounts – A recount is only as good as its chain of custody, which helps ensure that all ballots, and only real and legitimate ballots are counted.

2016-11-18 – Audits or Fraudits? – Brief mention of how chain of custody fits into spot checks and audits, with example of chain of custody problem for Shelby County TN poll tapes.

2016-02-01 – Caucus integrity – Caucus chain of custody has sometimes been a weak area. In a caucus the count happens two places, first at the local precinct and next at the state where they add up all the local results. Rick for vote counts being changed as they move from precinct to state; provides detailed examples of several chain of custody failures in the 2012 Iowa caucus

2013-11-29 – Elections in the United States – poor chain of custody for vote-by-mail ballots; Video surveillance systems used inconsistently in U.S.

2013-11-28 – Elections in Afghanistan – Chain of custody is put at risk when ballots are moved for central count, (though in locations like Afghanistant, at high risk for election violence, this may be necessary to count in safe place; requires mitigation by observers in ballot transport vehicle; also, in 2009 Afghan election, misplaced ballots were found from 500 locations, a significant chain of custody breach.

2013-11-27 – Ballot Privacy – Numbering systems, used to help track ballot chain of custody, may or may not remove privacy of the ballot, depending on how they are implemented.

2008-05-24 – What Constitutes an Election Audit – Lapses in chain of custody after ballots leave polling place provide opportunity for ballot tampering prior to tabulation, in which case a subsequent hand count will nicely match the tabulator count. Chain of custody breach after ballots are tabulated provide opportunity for ballot substitution to make ballots match a rigged tabulator count.

2007/01/24 – Wyoming: Sheridan County: Hand recounts prohibited – Here, ballots are a public record, but a chain of custody issue is introduced when there is a delay between public inspection and original count.

2006/11/04 – Texas: Williamson County: ES&S voting machines miscount – Private company ES&S installed patch for iVotronic touchscreens (new software), bypassing whatever chain of custody exists for independent testing and federal certification.


Accountability: ELECTION RECORDS

Accountability: Election Records: ALTERED