NC Elections Board May Pick New Voting Machine Options Sunday

[Published on WRAL.com July 23, 2019 by Travis Fain]

The State Board of Elections will meet Sunday evening for a certification vote on what new voting machines will be allowed in North Carolina.

The long-delayed decision will follow a demonstration of the various options from companies hoping to do business, or more business, in the state.

Local boards of election decide what systems to buy, but the state board has to decide first whether various options meet state requirements.

"If they meet the statutory requirements, they're to be certified," Board Chairman Robert Cordle said Tuesday.

The board plans to meet at 5 p.m. in the Triangle Ballroom at the Cary Embassy Suites on Harrison Oaks Boulevard in Cary, not in the usual meeting room at the board offices.

Several things are up in the air right now for the 2020 presidential elections:

  • North Carolina's voter ID law, set to go into effect next year, faces legal challenges, but a panel of three judges said Friday that the law will be in effect while they hear the case.

  • State law is supposed to phase out touchscreen voting in favor of machines using paper ballots, but the legislature is considering a delay, and the state board's new executive director has advocated for one, saying there may not be enough time to replace touchscreen systems used now by about a third of the state's voters.

  • There's also an open question on when vendors trying to sell new equipment to county boards of election would have to put up a $17 million bond, a requirement the legislature is considering tweaking, and which might affect company dealings with county boards.

  • The state board has also asked companies seeking certification to submit information about their ownership. The state also asked the federal Department of Homeland Security to vet these companies, in part to look for foreign ownership.

Activists are concerned that the state board will certify machines that don't produce hand-marked paper ballots, which they see as less secure. Some of the options being weighed produce paper ballots that record a person's vote via barcode. The main concern there is that people can't read barcodes,.

The League of Women Voters has pushed back against these systems, as have others, including Josh Lawson, who until a change in leadership earlier this year, was the state board's lead in-house attorney.

The following three companies seek certification Sunday:

  • Clear Ballot, for its ClearVote 1.4 system.

  • ES&S, for its EVS 5.2.2.0 system. ES&S is the only company currently certified in North Carolina.

  • Hart InterCivic, for its Verity Voting 2.2 system

In addition to the demonstration and the certification vote, the voter ID rules that absentee-by-mail voters will face in coming elections are also on the board's Sunday agenda.

Members of the public can attend the meeting or call in to listen. The phone number is 631-992-3221, and the code to listen in is 502 966 754.