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Elections Board Awaiting New Member To Break Tie On Voting Machines

A picture of people in voting booths
Joe Shlabotnik
Flickr Creative Commons

North Carolina's elections board is deadlocked over whether to require that voting machines produce a paper printout that lets voters read and confirm their ballot.

The state's Board of Elections on Thursday decided to debate the issue again in three weeks. By then, it's likely a fifth member will be appointed to replace former chairman Bob Cordle who resigned this week.

Cordle stepped down under fire Tuesday after telling an inappropriate joke at a conference for county elections officials on Monday. His resignation is significant because Cordle would have been a third vote on the five-member, bi-partisan board backing certification.

Three companies are seeking certification of their equipment, including one system that doesn't use hand-marked paper ballots and emits a ticket with a bar code that is then scanned to tabulate voters' choices. Once a company's system is certified by the state, the vendor may contract with individual counties. Twenty-two counties use touch-screen equipment that is due to be de-certified December 1.

Now deadlocked at 2-2, the board voted to meet August 23 to consider new rules that could block the use of voting systems that do not rely on hand-marked paper ballots. Board member Stella Anderson said she has concerns that such systems don't allow voters to readily verify their choices were properly tabulated.

"The voters in those counties will be voting on that equipment for 10, maybe 15, years," Anderson said, referring to the projected life span of any systems certified for use in future elections. "We have to get this right."

Advocacy groups, including the League of Women Voters, share Anderson's concerns and have cautioned the elections board not to certify such software-based voting systems out of concerns over vulnerabilities to hacking. The same concerns expressed by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee in a 67-page report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

"My hope is that they would absolutely not certify systems that don't rely on those hand-marked paper ballots," said Dianna Wynn, president of the League of Women Voters of Wake County, after Thursday's board meeting.

Under state law, Gov. Roy Cooper must fill the board vacancy with a nominee from a list submitted by the state Democratic Party.

Rusty Jacobs is WUNC's Voting and Election Integrity Reporter.
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