A Simple Yet Important Election Protection Action Almost Anyone Can Do

What Are Poll Tapes and Why Are They Important?

Poll tapes are the original record of the total votes counted at a polling place. They show how many votes each candidate received in that location. These records, also called results tapes, look like cash register receipts.

Black poll worker hanging a poll tape on a wooden door. The poll tape is a long strip of paper that looks like a cash register receipt.
Photo credit: Sue Dorfman

Poll workers print out the tapes after polls close on election night and — in many states — are required to post them publicly. Workers will often hang them inside a window, facing out, or on the outside of the building.

That’s where you come in!

It’s crucial that we capture the numbers on these public records to verify the vote counts announced later. This is an essential check on our computerized voting systems.

All you need is a smart phone!

Using the Actual Vote app, you’ll scan the tape with your video camera and upload it to the servers of our partner organization, America Counts. From there it can be tabulated and analyzed.

The idea is to check the accuracy of official vote totals.

Phone held upright by light-skinned person's left hand, with screen showing a poll tape being video-recorded. Poll tape can be seen behind phone and appears to be hanging on a wall.
Casually dressed brown-skinned woman showing "thumbs up" sign, standing in front of government building. Poll tapes provide a method of citizen oversight of elections.

Double-checking vote totals in this way can help increase voter confidence. The evidence you’ve collected can help document the accuracy of an election, fending off partisan attacks on our democracy.

How to Get Started Documenting Vote Totals with Poll Tapes

Step 1

Find out whether results tapes will be posted in your location.

Select your state on the Actual Vote website for the most up-to-date information we have about whether or not these records will be posted publicly.

Step 2

Learn what to do on election night.

Complete the form to get instant access to our training video.

Get Access to Poll Tapes Training

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You’ll also receive occasional updates from Scrutineers.

Step 3

Download the app and practice

The Actual Vote app is available for both Android and iPhone devices.

Inside the app, you’ll find instructions on how to practice so you’ll be ready on election night.


We recommend you call your local election office and ask whether poll tapes will be posted. Some places may post them even if it’s not required.

If there’s no plan to post the poll tapes, ask if you can observe the poll closing procedures and watch the tapes being printed.

Note that not all locations will have poll tapes. Poll tapes are created by the scanners that count votes. While in many places that happens at the polling place, in others the counting is done at a central facility.

Video recording of poll tapes happens on election night. Poll tapes are usually posted about an hour after polls close.

You can go to any polling place. Better yet, go to more than one! Check your local election website for a list of polling places.

There’s no need to sign up for your specific location. It’s actually helpful if we receive duplicates from different people.

Besides your smart phone, the most important thing to bring is a partner. Since you’ll be working at night, it’s much easier to video the poll tapes if one person can shine a flashlight on the poll tape while the other films. If you plan to drive to multiple polling places where parking is difficult, you may want a driver who can wait for you in the car.

Yes! You can gather a group of people to record poll tapes in your area. You can also help with analysis of the data from your area or from other places. Contact our partners at America Counts for more information.

We encourage everyone who can to become a vote count observer. We’re providing training for this as well. Learn more about becoming a vote count observer.

Want to get even more involved? Join the Scrutineers Community.