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VA 2020 and 2021 Machine Tapes Compared to Official Results for a single VA County

(Updates in red text as of 01-27-2022)

Walt Lantham, the registrar of York county (yes … it’s York County … don’t worry … I asked Walt if he was ok with me identifying him and the locality publicly before making this update) generously reached out and contacted me to try and clear up some of the original numbers I posted below. We had a long and detailed couple of phone calls (over two hours in total) and went over all over these results in detail. It turns out that I was missing the hand counted ballot tally sheets from the data that I had received. This cleared up most of the technical issues with the 2021 data and all but 1 issue with the data below for 2020. The remaining issue is the discrepancy with the official State CSV files, which is outside of Walt’s ability to diagnose. Our discussion also brought up some of the interesting procedural issues and challenges related to data reporting, retention, maintenance and general practices as well. I’ll touch on that in a bit. It was a great conversation and a big thank you to Walt and his staff for taking the time to address these issues in detail.

Special thanks again to the grassroots folks in VFA, and throughout the state, for all their hard work in collecting the machine tape information for various localities. There were a few localities that provided not only the 2021 machine tapes, but the 2020 versions as well! The first one of those that I have compiled all the data for is reported below. As with all of my results, I invite those that wish to replicate, validate or refute to contact me and I will happily provide the necessary details and data files.

I believe we have some significant issues with our elections in VA. The data below helps clearly make that case, in conjunction with the multiple other data analyses that I’ve done and posted here on my blog. The data below is only from a single locality in the state (I am working on others). I am purposefully summarizing the data and abstracting which locality this represents, as I do not want to jeopardize any potential legal proceedings or official investigations. But I do feel strongly that the “fact of” this information needs to be made public and become part of the discussion on the matter. (And … just to be clear … the background image for this blog post is the tapes from a different locality in 2021 only, which I discussed here)

I’ll note that the machine tapes and Statements of Results (SORs) are the “gold standard” to measure the published election results against in VA. Once a vote is cast on a machine, there is no process for it to be removed from the official vote count. Each ballot category is supposed to be scanned into a set of dedicated machines. Provisional ballots have their own dedicated machines that they get scanned into. Mail-In ballots have their own dedicated machines. Early In-Person ballots get their own machines, as do the In-Person Early and Day-Of ballots.

Ballots that cannot be scanned for some reason must be hand counted. This hand counting and verification is performed at the post-election canvass. In my discussion with Walt, we noted the fact that there is no requirement for the hand-count tally worksheets used during the canvass to be included in the statement of results reports that are available for the public to view. There is also no mechanism for the state to track or delineate the numbers of hand-counted ballots, or way for voters to know the various reasons why ballots needed to be hand counted in the first place. But luckily for me … Walt keeps good notes and records, and e-mailed me a copy of the Tally sheets that he preserved from the canvass for my records and to fill in the data gaps.

There should be zero difference from the sum of these reports (including the hand counts) to the reported official results, save for very very very small and rare documented errors and issues. Maaaaaybe 1 or 2 differences here and there, but nowhere near the results presented below when compared to the State CSV files. I have talked to multiple elections officers, public officials, registrars and lawyers and ALL of them have agreed with this sentiment.

Input Data:

The official results are supplied by the VA Dept. of Elections (ELECT) website in a csv file for 2020 (here) and 2021 (here). Additional versions of the official results are reported through a web portal to the ELECT historical archive for 2020 (here). Turnout numbers are supplied similarly from csv files on the ELECT servers for 2020 (here) and 2021 (here). Note that the official CSV and WEB tally results for 2020 show significant differences, yet both are supposed to reflect the “official” results. That, on its own, is a significant issue that warrants further inspection. I’ve computed the deviations between both data sets for this locality, so it’s dealers choice as to which dataset you want to compare against. For 2021 the CSV results are the only ones available.

SOR and machine tape information was obtained by volunteers across the state going to their local registrar or county clerks office. For some counties complete datasets of both 2021 and 2020 election results were obtained, with hand transcriptions of tape returns as well as photographic copies of the originals. The results reported below are for a moderately sized York County and were derived from both hand transcribed results and photographic copy of the machine tapes for both 2020 and 2021. The Statement of Results (SOR) reports and change logs from the county do not document any issues that would account for the discrepancies below. There were no issues presented at the canvass (where the tapes and SOR’s are checked against the state database entries for errors) that would explain the results below that I am aware of. As noted above per my discussions with Walt, and with him providing the copies of the hand-count tally worksheets, we were able to address most of the discrepancies that I came across except for the discrepancy of the 2020 data with the CSV version of the official results posted by VA ELECT. In fact, Walt’s corrections made the discrepancy with the CSV results slightly worse, even though they fixed the discrepancies with the WEB based portal results.


The tables below show the computed differences of the VA Dept of Elections data minus the collected machine tape results, stratified by major candidate party. The 2020 results are for office of president, the 2021 results for Governors race. The 2021 and 2020 Web results were strictly positive differences, so there is no distinction between the Sum of the differences (the NET change) and the Sum of the Absolute Value of the differences (how many votes were affected). Whereas, the 2020 CSV results had some negative differences, so there are two different ways to compute the effects of these deviations.

The 2021 Governor’s race showed a smaller amount of % deviation from the machine tapes than the 2020 Presidential race for this locality, but still show non-zero differences. (Remember, there should be zero difference.)

It is notable to mention that in 2021 the reporting was changed such that absentee mail-in and early-vote totals are separated in the reported data. The 2021 In-Person Day-Of results were identical to the reported results presented by the VA Department of Elections, with the In-Person Early vote only showing a single vote discrepancy. Almost all of the differences are manifested in the Mail-In or Provisional ballots for the 2021 data.

Likewise for 2020 there is very little difference (a single vote again) in the In-Person Day-Of precinct totals from the reported results. Almost all of the differences can be attributed to Central Absentee Precinct (CAP) data when compared against the state’s official CSV report.

2021 Results

YearPRECINCTVDOE-TAPE difference for Democratic candidateVDOE-TAPE difference for Libertarian candidateVDOE-TAPE difference for Republican candidate
2021Total Differences Provisional22 0018 0
2021Total Differences AB – Central Absentee Precinct25 009 0
2021Total Differences EV – Central Absentee Precinct001
2021Total Differences PE – Central Absentee Precinct1 002 0
2021Total Differences Day-Of Precincts000
Total Differences48 0030 1
Machine Tape Totals12142 1219015017455 17484
% of Machine Tape Totals48/12142*100 = 0.40%
0/12190*100 = 0.00%
0/150*100 = 0.00%30/17455*100 = 0.17%
1/17484*100 = 0.006%
Differences of 2021 Tape Counts from Official Results (CSV)

2020 Results (ELECT Web Portal Archive)

YearPRECINCTVDOE-TAPE difference for Democratic candidateVDOE-TAPE difference for Libertarian candidateVDOE-TAPE difference for Republican candidate
2020Total Differences AB – Central Absentee Precinct234 010 112 0
2020Total Differences Provisional2 001 0
2020Total Differences Day-Of Precincts001
Total Differences236 010 0114 1

Machine Tape Totals17447 17683670 68020027 20240

% of Machine Tape Totals236/17447*100 = 1.35%
0/17447*100 = 0.00%
10/670*100 = 1.49%
0/670*100 = 0.00%
114/20027*100 = 0.57%
1/20027*100 = 0.005%
Differences of 2020 Tape Counts from Official Results (WEB)

2020 Results (ELECT CSV Report)

YearPRECINCTVDOE-TAPE difference for Democratic candidateVDOE-TAPE difference for Libertarian candidateVDOE-TAPE difference for Republican candidate
2020Total Differences AB – Central Absentee Precinct77 157-1 1111 101
2020Total Differences Provisional-114 116-1 1-52 53
2020Total Differences Day-Of Precincts001
Total Differences-37 2732 1264 155

Machine Tape Totals17447 17683670 68020027 20240

% of Machine Tape Total-37/17447*100 = -0.21%
273/17683*100 = 1.54%
-2/670*100 = -0.30%
12/680*100 = 1.80%
64/20027*100 = 0.32%
155/20240*100 = 0.77%
Abs Val Total Differences191 2732 12164 155
Abs Val % of Machine Tape Totals191/17447*100 = 1.09%
273/17683*100 = 1.54%
2/670*100 = 0.30%
12/680*100 = 1.80%
164/20027*100 = 0.82%
155/20240*100 = 0.77%
Differences of 2020 Tape Counts from Official Results (CSV)