Thursday, 13 June 2019 17:25

State board postpones decision on new voting systems

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RALEIGH — The State Board of Elections on Thursday postponed a decision on whether to certify three new voting systems for use in North Carolina elections.

Instead, the five-member State Board voted unanimously to require each vendor, by noon on June 21, to disclose any owners or shareholders with a 5 percent or greater interest or share in the company, any subsidiary companies and the vendor’s parent company.

“We want to ensure that the Board has all necessary information before making the very important decision about voting equipment that will be used in future North Carolina elections,” said Karen Brinson Bell, State Board executive director. “We also want to give voters more time to learn about the vendors and products seeking certification.”

A State Board meeting is expected to be scheduled soon to consider the certification applications.

The three vendors and systems under consideration for certification are:

  • Clear Ballot: ClearVote 1.4
  • Election Systems & Software (ES&S): EVS
  • Hart InterCivic: Verity Voting 2.2

The approval of new voting systems would empower the 100 county boards of elections to choose what equipment best serves their voters in 2020 and beyond. New systems would give the counties options when replacing aging voting machines, some of which are more than a decade old.

Even if ultimately certified, the voting systems vendors and the state and county boards of elections still must comply with many requirements of the law and North Carolina’s Voting Systems Certification Program before any county boards may purchase the equipment.

For voters, public demonstrations of any new voting equipment would be held in various locations in the coming months. Information about each voting system also will be available on the State Board website.

Currently, ES&S is the only certified voting systems vendor in North Carolina. Its products have been used in all North Carolina elections in recent years. They include the DS200 and M100 precinct tabulators, which read and tabulate paper ballots, as well as the iVotronic, a touch-screen, direct-record-electronic machine used on Election Day in about 20 counties. 

Under current state law, DREs will be decertified in North Carolina on Dec. 1, 2019, in favor of paper ballots or voting equipment that produces paper ballots for all voters.

The DRE also is used by about a quarter of North Carolina’s counties to accommodate voters with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The certification of new systems will give counties new options for ADA compliance.

The three systems all meet federal standards and are approved for use in elections by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission; they are all used in other states. They also completed North Carolina’s rigorous testing process, which included a simulated election and additional testing to ensure they systems function properly with the state’s election management system.

In late July 2018, the State Board hosted a public demonstration of the voting systems. A public comment period was held from July 27 to Aug. 10, 2018. Public comments are available here.

There are many safeguards throughout the elections process to help ensure voting systems function properly and produce reliable results. Before use countywide in any election, any new voting system must be tested in at least one precinct or early voting site in that county.

The machines must be tested for accuracy before each election. After each election, the State Board conducts a series of post-election audits, some of which are designed to detect potential problems with machines or tabulation of results.

Companies whose voting systems are used in any North Carolina county also must post a $17 million bond, like an insurance policy, to cover damages, such as the need for a new election, caused by defects, decertification or other issues with their voting systems.

In other business Thursday, the State Board certified results of the Republican primary in the 9th Congressional District. Candidate Dan Bishop won the primary, with 47.68 percent of the votes.