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Board of Elections meets today to decide on voter system certification

The North Carolina Board of Elections will meet later today to consider adding stricter requirements to the voter certification program before deciding which systems to certify.

Voting rights advocates and advocacy groups, along with hundreds of voters have spent weeks urging the State Board to adopt the stricter requirement: “An electronically assisted marking device or other ballot marking equipment shall produce human readable marks on a paper ballot. A voter must be able to identify his or her intent as evidence by the mark on the ballot.”

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.

Currently, Election Systems & Software (ES&S) is the only certified voting systems vendor in North Carolina. Its products have been used in all state 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.

The real-time DRE technology is what’s being phased out in favor of machines that result in paper ballots for everyone. DRE technology has been reported to be vulnerable to election hacking.

The State Board had already postponed the approval of new voting systems in mid-June and amended its certification program to require vendors seeking certification to disclose information about company ownership.

The vendors responded with their ownership information, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security evaluated it for any potential national security concerns related to foreign ownership. It did not raise any red flags, according to the State Board.

The meeting will be at 1 p.m. today on the 3rd floor of the Dobbs Building, 430 N. Salisbury St., in Raleigh. Members of the public may attend in person or listen to proceedings by dialing 631-992-3221 (code 146-862-677).

The State Board will hear public comment from up to 20 members of the public, and they can speak for up to two minutes each. Those wishing to speak at the meeting may sign up there.

It will be the first meeting chaired by Damon Circosta, who was appointed to the helm by Gov. Roy Cooper after the previous Chairman Bob Cordle resigned over telling an inappropriate joke at an elections conference. Cordle had voted against adding the stricter requirement to the voter certification process.

Common Cause NC is one of the advocacy groups urging State Board members to adopt the new requirement, as well as Democracy NC.

“With the pivotal 2020 election approaching and North Carolina likely a battleground state, it’s crucial that the people of North Carolina have complete confidence in the transparency and security of our elections,” said Common Cause NC Executive Director Bob Phillips. “All voting machines used in our state should ensure that voters are able to clearly verify who they voted for and be fully assured that their ballot is accurately counted.

“We urge the State Board of Elections to put transparency, accessibility and voter confidence in the integrity of our elections at the forefront of deciding which voting machines to certify for 2020 and beyond. In our view, hand-marked paper ballots are best able to meet those goals.”

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