County seeks voting machine extension from General Assembly

Photo by Todd Luck

County seeks voting machine extension from General Assembly
November 09
04:00 2017

Forsyth County Board of Elections is hoping the General Assembly will give counties an extension on getting new voting machines.

Currently the county is under a state deadline to switch to a paper-based ballot system by next year. The county had planned to replace its current touchscreen voting machines used for early voting with new machines that will produce paper ballots.

Plans to test the machines and have them ready by 2018, were sidelined by a legal battle over proposed changes to the makeup of election boards in the state. As North Carolina awaits a ruling, the State BOE’s term expired and the board is currently vacant. Without a state board, there is no one to certify new voting machines for use in the state, so Forsyth can’t get new machines and its current ones will no longer be certified after year’s end.

“We face the challenge of this looming deadline,” Forsyth BOE Director Tim Tsujii told county commissioners at a briefing last week.

This would result in Forsyth voters using paper ballots for early voting in next year’s primary and Forsyth BOE renting machines for visually impaired voters. The problem is that last year there were 80 ballot styles and each early voting site would have 1000s of each to accommodate any voter from any precinct that might go there. Tsujii said this would result in printing 200 percent of the amount of ballots equal to the registered voters in the county.

“We’d have to print out an extraordinary amount of paper ballots,” said Tsujii.

Tsujii said this could result in long lines and confusion during early voting.

There are eight other counties facing the same deadline because they rely on paper ballots on Election Day. Counties that don’t use paper ballots for voting face a deadline of September 2019. Tsujii said that he met with representatives of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) and State BOE staff, and they discussed potential state legislation that would give Forsyth and those other eight counties the September 2019 deadline for new machines.  The legislation would be drafted by State BOE staff and the NCACC will advocate for it.

County commissioners voiced support for the effort. Commissioner Gloria Whisenhunt said that the commissioners should send letters to county lawmakers and the NCACC in support of the effort. 

“Hopefully this will be a no brainer,” said Commissioner Don Martin.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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