What happens after polls close? We asked a polling place supervisor

Shelton Mackey, a volunteer polling place supervisor, arrived at Salem Elementary School in Fredericksburg, Va., at 5 a.m. on Tuesday — one hour before in-person voting began. The poll closed at 7 p.m., and ballot totals were quickly reported by phone. So, why didn't he leave until just before 9 p.m.? The answer, as Mackey explains, is an often overlooked process that ensures confidence in our elections.

Video transcript

SHELTON MACKEY: The polls are now closed.

Yes, hi. This is Shelton 301. Mm-hmm. You ready for numbers?

- So you just spent close to two hours packing everything up and sitting at a table. What, effectively, were you all doing?

SHELTON MACKEY: We were doing a final audit inventory ensuring that the ballots cast have been properly counted for, inventoried, and properly stored so we can return them for safe storage by the county in case there's a question. And just, in my opinion, we're ensuring the continued integrity of the election because we've gone through and accounted for, you know, ballots cast, the process we use to keep up with all of it, yeah. Yeah.

- Because you--

SHELTON MACKEY: That's what we're doing. Yeah.

- You called in the result at, you know, 10 minutes after polls closed.


- And then the rest of it was just--

SHELTON MACKEY: Physically packing up. But there were also going through an accounting for so we have a paper trail audit, if needed, of the materials at the end of the election.

- Yeah. And then the ballots right there go to the--

SHELTON MACKEY: County-- they are delivered to the County Board of Elections tonight before I go home. In fact, that's my next stop. As I put this in my car, I'll literally take them there. And they'll store them wherever the county keeps them stored for safekeeping in case there is a question or direction from which, in this case, the federal election, I believe the judge has to direct them to open up in case there's questions.

- You guys got here 5:00 AM?


- it's Now almost 9:00.


- Why do all this?

SHELTON MACKEY: I enjoy it, and I think our elections are important to the American democratic process. If we can't show that we have integrity of how we select our leaders, then we're just a kangaroo court somewhere, you know? And that's why we do it. And quite honestly, I enjoy it. I enjoy the engagement with people and ensure they have the opportunity to vote if they're authorized to vote.