LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — When a Fayette County voter sends in an absentee ballot, whether through the mail or a ballot drop-off box, it ends up at a large facility off Versailles Road.
To access the building, you must have a key card or be let in. Once inside, there's a sign-in process and your temperature is taken.
There are about 34 people on the floor processing ballots. The same people are there day after day.
Every morning, the facility receives a shipment of absentee ballots from the U.S. mail and from ballot drop-off boxes.
They are collected and counted in batches of 25.
Then, each ballot's barcode, located on the outside envelope, is scanned.
"The folks that are going to govoteky.com to check their ballot status, when you see it's been received, that's what that means, that we've checked it in," Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins said.
Next, voters' signatures are checked to make sure they match what is on file, either on a Driver's License or voter registration card. Blevins said so far, 70 signatures out of the 75,000 ballots received are under review.
He said those voters are contacted immediately.
"We'll try to get in touch with you to let you know, here's what you need to do to fix this," Blevins said.
Ballot packages may also have issues. If they are severe, they could be rejected, and the voter will be contacted.
"We're gonna contact you via email if you supplied it, as well as U.S. mail, try to reach out to you, let you know that your ballot had to be rejected, and we're going to cancel it in the system and what that does is allows you to vote in person," Blevins said. "[It] gives you a second chance."
These issues are reasons why Blevins said it is crucial that absentee voters get their ballots in now. This ensures that there will be enough time to correct any mistakes.
After signatures and ballot packages are checked, they're opened and the ballot itself is fed through a scanner.
While this is all happening, the security is tight. A camera live streams the entire process here.
At least three other security cameras are visible around the room.
"We also have an alarm system with extra enhancements that I probably shouldn't talk about, but this facility is going to be difficult to get into and if you do, we're going to catch you," Blevins said.
The ballots themselves are also under lock and key. When they're scanned, they go into machines that are sealed tight.
"The only way you can get to a machine and do something about it is to have physical access to a machine," Blevins said. "That's why we're in a secure facility. To prevent just that from happening. Even if you get physical access to a machine, there are still safeguards that you have to penetrate, and you'll be caught too because the safeguards also show us that someone's tampered with the machine. As you can see there are multiple, multiple layers of protection and double checks. It's just impossible for someone to commit voter fraud. It's very difficult."
Finally, on Election Night, you must have a passcode to open each machine where the ballots are stored. There are about 60 of those machines at the facility, which store a maximum of 3,000 ballots each.
Once the passcode is entered, the option "close the polls" pops up. At that point, a paper accounting of the results is printed. The results are also stored digitally on a memory drive. Those drives are then taken to the Clerk's Office in downtown Lexington to be counted alongside the drives from the other in-person votes.
Blevins assured voters that the entire process is not done over the internet.
"At no time is any of this on the internet," Blevins said. "Ever. I want to make sure people know that. You can't hack us. Not gonna happen."