PORTLAND, Ore. — Paper ballots have been the talk of the town for months leading up to the election.
But with the election coming to an end, what happens to all of the ballots that have already been counted?
KGW set out to VERIFY: What happens to paper ballots after elections?
According to federal law, in elections where candidates are nominated or elected to federal office, all ballots, voter registration records and other election materials must be retained for at least 22 months after the election.
This law is in place in case an election is challenged or a recount is in order.
While all states must follow this law for federal elections, states and counties differ on their specific procedures for federal, state and local elections.
In Oregon, though county clerks must wait 22 months to destroy ballots for federal elections, in local and state elections, they only have to wait 90 days after the final day to contest the election, according to Oregon law.
In Multnomah County, specifically, the elections office maintains ballots and election materials for two years after all elections, according to Eric Sample at the Multnomah County Elections Division.
For those two years, the office keeps election materials in a safe storage room with a security camera, Sample said. After two years, the election office shreds all the ballots and election materials.
For example, election offices will shred the Nov. 2018 election materials after they complete the current election. And they will shred the Nov. 2020 election materials after completing the Nov. 2022 election.
But even though the ballots are disposed of, all records of them are not. Multnomah County maintains a PDF image of each counted ballot in the ballot counting system, “Clear Ballot,” which is used in many Oregon and Washington counties.
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