Zero tape (also called a zero report) refers to a file produced by electronic voter machines which show that the machine has no votes tallied at the beginning of an election. Many states require poll workers to retrieve a zero tape before counting votes, ensuring the machines are starting the counts at zero. This allows states to compare numbers from the zero-tape and final vote tallies for each machine in case an error arises or just to fulfill state-mandated audits of election results. Zero tape rules and other voting machine procedures have been put in place by the federal and state governments in response to past errors such as those at issue in Bush v. Gore.
[Last updated in April of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]