Courts & the Law, News

Report: Election security advocates, NAACP head call for Board of Elections chair to resign

Will Doran of the News & Observer wrote this week about election security advocates and the head of the North Carolina NAACP asking for a new leader at the North Carolina Board of Elections, but that’s not likely to happen, according to the article.

The group sent a letter Monday to Gov. Roy Cooper asking him to demand the resignation of Board of Elections Chairman Damon Circosta, who the governor appointed earlier this summer after prior chairman Bob Cordle resigned over telling an inappropriate joke at a conference.

They say the elections board has not done enough to focus on cyber security in the face of foreign interference in elections, the newspaper article states. They also oppose the board’s recent decision to allow counties to use — instead of hand-marked paper ballots — a type of electronic voting machine, which they say runs on outdated software and could be more susceptible to hackers.

“We respectfully urge you to request the immediate resignation (of Circosta) from the State Board of Elections and to quickly appoint a replacement member committed to ensuring North Carolina’s elections are a model of security for the nation, providing that all votes are recorded and counted transparently, accessibly, auditably and securely for all voters,” the letter said.

Cooper, however, stands by Circosta and the elections board as a whole.

“The security of our elections is the number one priority of the State Board of Elections,” Cooper spokesman Ford Porter said. “This includes ballot and voting machine security, ensuring against voter intimidation and discrimination in all forms, freedom from long lines, and making sure that voting is as easy and hassle free as possible. The Governor believes the board is focused on these concerns.”

Circosta told Doran that his goal was to keep voting equipment secure. Board of Elections spokesman Pat Gannon responded to the newspaper by questioning some of the accuracy of the claims in the letter.

The saga stems from Circosta’s decision to allow counties to choose which voting machines to certify for the 2020 election. Election security advocates, who were part of the public process, criticized electronic machines because of the potential for hacking and urged the State Board to certify hand-marked ballot systems. (Disclosure: Circosta is the Executive Director of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, a funder of NC Policy Watch.)

Doran’s story states that most counties in North Carolina give hand-marked paper ballots to most voters, which the activists who wrote the letter prefer. But some plan to continue using only electronic voting in 2020 — including Mecklenburg County, the state’s largest county.

Circosta said the board has done its due diligence and would not have certified any voting machines that didn’t pass security tests. However, he said he has nothing against activists raising their concerns.

“I always appreciate advocates bringing these issues to our attention,” Circosta said.

With all the rules about pre-election testing, security during elections, and then audits after elections, he said, “there is a remarkable amount of work that goes into making sure that when people go to the polls their choices are registered and secured.”

Read the full story here.

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