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Election Advisory No. 2011-18

To: All Election Officials
From: Elizabeth Hanshaw Winn, Interim Director of Elections
Date: December 7, 2011
RE: Securing and Preserving Voting System Election Records

This advisory provides guidance on how to comply with Section 129.023(f)(2) of the Texas Election Code (the Code), which provides as follows:

The general custodian of election records shall preserve a copy of the system’s software at a secure location that is outside the administrator’s and programming entity’s control until at least 22 months after election day.

Section 10(a) of Election Advisory 2010-12 lists specific election software records that should be managed in accordance with Section 129.023(f) (2) of the Code. 

  1. Retention of election material
    1. Records created as part of a federal election must be retained for twenty-two months and in nonfederal elections for six months. In addition to the instructions provided in Section 66.058 of the Code, electronic records shall be secured in a locked container sealed with one or more uniquely identified tamper-resistant or tamper-evident seals and logged. This includes, but is not limited to:
      1. Logic and Accuracy Test and results
      2. Printed audits (Real-time audit log)
      3. Forms
      4. Zero tapes
      5. Results tapes
      6. Electronic Records
        1. Ballot definitions
        2. Cast vote records (ballot images), as applicable
        3. Audit logs
        4. Election results

The recommendations in this advisory are consistent with security instructions to election custodians that they back-up all election databases for the election software pieces they own.

For security reasons and to avoid the perception that other county departments might have access to election data, we recommend that the databases be sent to an off-site storage agency that specializes in storing government documents.  This practice of records management has the added advantage of providing a clear paper trail for chain of custody purposes.   Fees for storage are customarily based on the number of boxes of items being stored and the amount of time they remain in storage.

For situations where fiscal limitations prevent off-site storage, elections custodians are advised to consider storing election databases in a secure location within the county office.  The selected storage site should meet the requirements outlined in Election Advisory 2010-12, Section 5b (ii):

  1. Storage and Transport of Voting System Equipment (Reference: TEC Chapter 125):
    1. The general custodian of elections shall create and maintain a secure location for storing and a secure method for transporting voting devices. This shall include procedures that are to be used at locations outside the direct control of the general custodian of elections, such as overnight storage at a polling location.
      1. Secure storage must employ the use of uniquely identified tamper-resistant or tamper-evident seals and logs, or other security measures that will detect any unauthorized access.
      2. For each election, the general custodian of elections shall create and maintain an inventory of these items for each storage location.
      3. The chain of custody must utilize two or more individuals to perform a check and verification check whenever a transfer of custody takes place or where the voting devices have been left unattended for any length of time. Particular attention must be given to the integrity of the tamper-resistant or tamper-evident seals.
      4. The general custodian of elections shall have a method of recording the names of the individuals who transport the voting system equipment and materials from one site to another and the time they left the sending site; and
      5. A method of recording the time the individuals who transport the voting system equipment and materials arrived at the receiving site and the name of the individuals at the receiving site who accepted the election equipment and material.
    2. The general custodian of elections shall have in place a written recovery plan that is to be followed should there be any indication of a security breach in the accountability and chain of custody procedures. The plan must also address inadvertent damage to any seals or accountability/chain of custody documentation errors. These plans must be developed in a manner that enhances public confidence in the security and integrity of the election. Any indication of a security breach, documentation errors, or seal damage must be confirmed by more than one individual.
    3. The general custodian of elections shall have a training plan for relevant election officials, staff, and temporary workers that address these security procedures and the relevant work instructions.

If you have any questions, please contact the Elections Division toll-free at 1-800-252-VOTE (8683).