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State Elections Board to Consider Certification of Voting Systems

The State Board of Elections on Sunday, July 28 will consider the certification of three new voting systems for use in North Carolina elections.

The Board will meet at 5 p.m. in the Triangle Ballroom at the Cary Embassy Suites.

The meeting will include a recess during which State Board members and attendees may view the voting systems.

The three vendors and systems under consideration for certification are:

• Clear Ballot: ClearVote 1.4
• Election Systems & Software (ES&S): EVS 5.2.2.0
• Hart InterCivic: Verity Voting 2.2

The public may attend the meeting in person or listen remotely by dialing (631) 992-3221. The code is 502-966-754.

The meeting will take place prior to the North Carolina 2019 Elections Conference, held Monday, July 29 and Tuesday, July 30 at the Cary hotel. About 700 elections officials from across North Carolina – including county board of elections members and staff – are expected to attend.

In mid-June, the five-member State Board postponed the approval of new voting systems and amended its certification program to require vendors seeking certification to disclose information about company ownership.

The vendors responded with ownership information. The Department of Homeland Security evaluated the responses for any potential national security concerns related to foreigh ownership and did not identify any red flags.

Only voting systems certified by the State Board may be used in North Carolina elections. The certification of new voting systems would empower the 100 county boards of elections to choose equipment that best serves their voters in 2020 and beyond. Some voting machines used in North Carolina are more than a decade old.

“In making decisions about certification, the State Board must consider many competing pressures: the need to replace aging voting equipment, Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, financial demands on the counties and, of course, the security and reliability of our elections,” said Karen Brinson Bell, State Board executive director.

For voters, public demonstrations of any newly certified 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 (DRE) machine used on Election Day in about 20 counties. (See North Carolina Voting Systems Map.)

Under current state law, DREs will be decertified in North Carolina on December 1, 2019, in favor of voting equipment that results in paper ballots for all voters. Proposed legislation pending in the N.C. General Assembly would delay the decertification date.

DREs are also used by some counties to accommodate voters with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The certification of new systems would give counties new options for ADA compliance.

The systems under consideration for certification 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 the 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 August 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 during an election in at least one precinct or early voting site in that county.

Additionally, all machines must be tested for accuracy before each election. Post-election audits, some of which are designed to detect potential problems with machines or tabulation of results, are conducted by the county and state boards of elections with each election. Every county conducts a sample, hand-to-eye audit count of randomly assigned voting sites.

Companies whose voting systems are used in any North Carolina county also must post a $17.01 million bond, like an insurance policy, to cover damages resulting from the need for a new election caused by defects, decertification or other issues with their voting systems.

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