MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Whether you voted by mail or in person this year, all ballots end up in the same place.

So what happens once they’re sent into the machine? WCCO asked Ramsey County Deputy Auditor Heather Bestler.

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“It remains in the scanner in the bottom storage compartment until close of polls at 8 p.m.,” Bestler said.

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Once everyone in line by 8 p.m. has voted, election judges then pull the ballots out of the tabulators and match the number of voters with the number of ballots.

The election judges then box up and seal the paper ballots and take them, along with the card that stores the voting data, to county headquarters.

Not every Minnesota county does it this way, but Ramsey County election judges actually drive the results to the headquarters.

“Ramsey County does not use modems to transmit results from the tabulators to our office,” Bestler said. “We anticipate that the first set of election judges could arrive to our office between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Midnight is normally when the last few trickle in.”

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Either a voter, or staff, or election judge sends that ballot through the scanner. And those ballots are locked up. The data cards holding the data are also locked up until Election Night.

“We aren’t allowed to hit tabulate on results until 8 p.m.,” Bestler said.

All of those data cards are then taken to another computer, and sent off wirelessly to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office.

“We try and do an upload approximately every 20 minutes,” Bestler said.

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When the vote tallies are sent to the state, the data contains both the absentee and in-person results combined as one.

And as for all those paper ballots, they’re sealed and stored for 22 months in an undisclosed location, per state law.

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As for the ballots that don’t arrive by Election Day, Hennepin County officials told WCCO they will be put through scanners, but set aside in separate batches. A court may decide what happens to them after the election.

Heather Brown