Counties across the state are working to beat a December deadline to replace touch-screen voting machines with models that use a paper ballot in order to comply with a 2013 state law.
Twenty-five counties, including Mecklenburg, Guilford, Forsyth and Union, will need to upgrade all or some of their equipment.
North Carolina State Board of Elections spokesperson Patrick Gannon said updating the equipment is important “to ensure that voters are confident that when they cast a ballot, that their choices are recorded properly and they can be audited on the back end if there are concerns about whether or not votes were counted properly.”
There is currently only one voting machine model that’s certified for use, but the State Board of Elections will meet soon to consider certifying additional models.
Gannon said counties making the switch need to test their equipment this fall ahead of the 2020 primary next March.
“The counties must be able to test any new system in the municipal election in order for it to be used in an election next year,” he said.
Counties will be responsible for covering the cost to swap out the machines. State officials estimate that could total roughly $10 million dollars.
Guilford County commissioners recently asked their legislative delegation to lobby the General Assembly to delay the replacement schedule.
Gannon said election officials recognize it’s a complex process with a short timeline.
“We fully understand that there would be a very tight window for counties to be able to test equipment, select what type of equipment they want, purchase it and get it in place in time for the start of early voting for next year’s presidential primary,” he said.
The replacement schedule has already been pushed back once, from September 1, 2019 to December 1, 2019. Any further change would have to be approved by the General Assembly.