After you submit your ballot on Election Day, you probably don’t think about it again. But it’s beginning a journey that will last almost two years.

Once you turn in your ballot, either in person or by mail, it is – obviously – counted. In some cases, it may be counted again or reviewed during an audit.

After that period, it is stored with other forms or records from election day, in a secure room.

With the exception of an audit or challenge to the election, your ballot will remain in a secure area for nearly two years – 22 months, under federal law. In some areas, like Multnomah County, Oregon, ballots are retained for a longer period of time.

The extended period gives election officials the opportunity to better focus their time on the next step in the ballot’s life cycle: destruction.

After the 22-month period has passed, local election officials can destroy the ballots. Electronic records are maintained but the physical ballots are disposed of.

Tim Scott, Director of Multnomah County Elections, tells Nexstar that in his county, ballots are shredded roughly 26 months after an election. Multiple shredding trucks are used and take hours to complete the process, Scott explains.

A similar process is done in Brown County, Wisconsin, where Green Bay sits, County Clerk Patrick Moynihan, Jr. explains.

In Bedford, Massachusetts, ballots are recycled, according to local public radio station WGBH.

Ballots don’t have to be disposed of, Riley Vetterkind, public information officer for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, told Nexstar. Rather, federal law allows local election officials the opportunity to do so.

Clearing the ballots out is also a crucial part of the voting process – doing so makes room for the next round.

As Scott explains: “It’s a lot of warehouse space, and I need that space for the next round.”

Election Day falls on November 8 this year.