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Local election officials say rigging would be difficult

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As we get closer to Election Day, presidential nominee Donald Trump continues to voice suspicion the election is rigged. And with reports of malfunctioning machines around the country, we decided to take a closer look at the voting process in our area.

Cities and counties across our region conduct elections differently but it comes down to redundancies, or a series of human and technical checks, to keep the process honest.

Almost all of the voting machines in Bristol, Virginia have been locked away until election day. Penny Limburg is the director of elections in Bristol, Virginia. She explained to me that before they seal up the others, each machine is tested.

"We vote a sample template ballot and then we check it to make sure all the votes are coming up as they should," she said.

Those machines are only used to tally the paper ballots voters fill out manually. They don't connect to the internet, so they're safe from hackers.

"The other thing is the machines are never left unattended. We always have an election officer with that machine," Limburg said.

Early voters are already casting their ballots using electronic machines in Sullivan County, Tennessee.

But administrator of elections Jason Booher points out these are not the same as the faulty touch screens reported in North Carolina.

"The machine presents a confirmation page and a summary screen for the voter to be able to review those selections when they are casting their ballot," Booher said.

Similar to Bristol, Virginia, all of the machines were tested by members of both major political parties. Booher said none of the early voting machines will be re-used on Election Day, further protecting the machines' accuracy.

He and Limburg said each municipality tallies votes on a local level before calling them up to the state. From there they're made public so that anyone who wants can make sure it all adds up.

Early voter Steven Pappas said he has faith in the integrity of the system.

"I mean I've been voting for years and I've just personally never seen anything that would make me have any concerns," he said.

But Brenda O'Dell who cast an absentee ballot in Virginia does have trust issues, not locally but nationally.

"Well I'm just concerned overall about the chances of things not being done correctly," O'Dell said.

Limburg insists it would be very difficult for any rigging to get past the safeguards.

"In order to do something like that, even with the electronic machines, it's almost like everybody would have to turn their back and not watch," she said, "but that's not how it actually is."

Early voting in Tennessee continues this week.

Virginia does not have early voting. Absentee voting is available if you fit one or more of 19 reasons you can't vote on Election Day. Those reasons can be found at the Bristol, Virginia Elections website. The deadline to request an absentee ballot be mailed to you is Tuesday, November 5. That ballot must be turned in by each individual voter before the end of Election Day.

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