New voting machines, ballots delayed

Voters will once again be using iVotronic touchscreen voting machines for early voting.

New voting machines, ballots delayed
September 06
03:00 2018

Plans to test new voting machines have been pushed back and the ballot preparations for this year’s election have been delayed.

Forsyth County Board of Elections (BOE) originally planned to have new touchscreen machines that would produce paper ballots ready to use this year to comply with new state requirements. That was delayed when a legal battle caused the State Board of Elections to be vacant from June 2017 until March 2018. With no N.C. BOE to certify new voting machines so counties can use them, the Forsyth County had to rely on paper ballots during primary early voting to comply with the new standards.

Revised plans to test new machines during this General Election have now been pushed back to next year at the earliest.

“We’re going to have to postpone any discussion on purchasing new equipment until after November because the State Board of Elections hasn’t completed their certification process of new vendors and their equipment,” said BOE Director Tim Tsujii.

The state board plans to meet in late September to consider certification of new voting equipment.

The General Assembly did pass a reprieve from the new paper ballot requirement, so primary voters can expect to see the touchscreen machines used in previous years during early voting and paper ballots on Election Day with rented AutoMark machines used for visually impaired voters.

Hacking of voter databases in other states have led to national concerns that election results could be hacked. Tsujii said that the voting machines at polling stations are not networked or connected to the internet. Results are stored in electronic cartridges that are hand delivered to the Forsyth BOE. Voting equipment is kept in secure rooms behind keycard and keypad access.  Machines are also tested before they’re used in an election. All machines create some sort of paper documentation that’s visible to voters, that can be checked later. Results are double-checked after every election by BOE staff during a canvass. 

In a separate matter, the N.C. Supreme Court had delayed the preparation of ballots for the general election due to legal challenges to proposed constitutional amendments that were supposed to go before voters this year. But the last challenge was ruled in favor of the General Assembly on Tuesday, Sept. 4. So it appears the amendments should be on the ballot.

State law requires absentee ballots to be available 60 days before an election, which would be Sept. 7. Since it takes about three weeks to prepare, print, test and deliver ballots, that deadline won’t be met. Federal law requires ballots to be available 45 days before an election, which is Sept. 22, which would require preparation to begin this week.

There’s also a three-judge panel that found there’s unconstitutional gerrymandering in the state’s 13 congressional districts, which could also affect elections this year. No decision from that panel was available by deadline on Tuesday.

Early voting is scheduled for Oct. 17 though Nov. 3 with Election Day being Nov. 6. Voter registration is still open, and on Sept. 25 Forsyth BOE is planning to do a mobile voter registration drive.

For updates about where the mobile voter registration vehicle will be, follow the Forsyth BOE on Twitter @fcvotes.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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