(a) By the fourth day prior to each election, the county board of elections shall have the central automatic tabulating equipment tested to ascertain that it will accurately count the votes cast for all offices and all questions. Public notice of the time and place of the test shall be given at least forty-eight hours prior to the test by newspaper publication in the county in accordance with section 106, such notice to be published once. The test shall be conducted by processing a preaudited group of district totals cards or ballots on which are recorded votes for each candidate and on each question. In such test a different number of valid votes shall be assigned to each candidate for an office and for and against each question. If any error is detected, the cause of it shall be ascertained and corrected and an errorless count shall be made and certified to by the county board of elections prior to election day. All test and program materials shall then be sealed by the county board of elections until their use on election day. The central automatic tabulating equipment shall pass the same test at the conclusion of the actual election count before the election returns are approved as official. On completion of the count, the programs, test materials, and district totals cards or ballots shall be sealed and retained according to the provisions contained in this act for the retention of paper ballots.
(b)(1) All proceedings at the central tabulation center shall be under the direction of the county board of elections or of such persons as it may designate and shall be conducted under the observation of the public insofar as is practical, but no persons except those authorized for the purpose shall touch any ballot or district totals card. All persons who are engaged in processing and counting the ballots and district totals cards shall be deputized and take an oath that they will faithfully perform their assigned duties.
(2) Each political party or political body represented on the official ballot may have one technically qualified person, authorized by the county chairman and deputized by the county board of elections, present during the testing of the central automatic tabulating equipment and the actual counting of the ballot or district totals cards. Such persons shall be allowed to make independent tests of the equipment prior to, during, and following the vote count: Provided, however, That such testing shall in no way interfere with the official tabulation of the ballots and district totals cards. In addition, each political party or political body shall be entitled to have observers at the central tabulation center, in a number, as determined by the county board of elections, sufficient to permit accurate observation of the receipt, handling, duplication, and processing of all ballots and district totals cards.
(3) If any ballots or district totals cards are damaged or defective so that they cannot properly be counted by the central automatic tabulating equipment, a true duplicate copy shall be made and substituted for any such damaged ballot or card. All such duplicate ballots or cards shall also be clearly labeled “Duplicate,” and shall bear a serial number which shall be recorded on the damaged or defective ballot or card.
(c) The return printed by the central automatic tabulating equipment, to which have been added write-in votes as recorded on the district reporting form and absentee votes, shall, when certified by the county board of elections, constitute the official return of each election district. Upon completion of the count, the official returns shall be open to the public.
(d) If for any reason it becomes impracticable to count all or a part of the ballots or district totals cards with automatic tabulating equipment, the county board of elections may direct that such ballots or cards be counted manually, following as far as practicable the provisions of this act governing the counting of paper ballots.
(e) During the course of central tabulation of ballots or district totals cards, the county board of elections may unofficially report the progress of the count for each candidate and on any question.
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