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Hullabaloo


Saturday, August 24, 2019

 

All paper ballots are not created equal

by Tom Sullivan

North Carolina's State Board of Elections voted Friday to approve three new voting systems for use in the state beginning in 2020. Over objections from over 20 voters and election experts who spoke demanding only systems using hand-marked paper ballots, the board voted 3-2 to include an ES&S touchscreen machine that prints a paper receipt showing a list of the candidates voters selected, but also a bar code rendering the machines actually count.

No matter what the printout reads, what happens in the electronics between the voter making selections on a touchscreen and the translation to a bar code is what has election transparency advocates concerned. The only person speaking in favor of the ballot-marking devices was Will Wesley, business development manager for ES&S.

The two other approved systems employ scannable, hand-marked paper ballots. Currently, fewer than one quarter of the state's 100 counties use ES&S iVotronic touchscreen machines scheduled to be decertified this year. The remaining counties already use hand-marked paper ballots.

"How would anyone know they're not voting for a cannister of Pringles?"

Chairman Damon Circosta, a Democrat, voted with the two Republican members against a motion from Board of Elections member Stella Anderson requiring only "human-readable" paper records. It was Circosta's first meeting since his appointment by Gov. Roy Cooper.

Republican board member Ken Raymond said voters objecting to the bar code system were being “inconsistent at best” since they accept bar code scanners at the grocery store and can easily verify the price they paid.

"I cannot look at a bar code and know that that bar code represents my vote," said board member Jeff Carmon, a Democrat.

"How would anyone know they're not voting for a cannister of Pringles?" responded one Twitter user.

Ultimately, the choice of which of the approved systems counties purchase to replace decertified touchscreen machines lies with local boards of elections.


Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, indicated his organization may file lawsuits against counties that choose electronic ballot-marking systems, reports Carolina Public Press. Such systems are already approved in other states:
Marilyn Marks, the executive director for a nonprofit, election-integrity watchdog group Coalition for Good Governance, is currently suing Georgia in federal court over that state’s voting system, addressing similar issues of security brought up in North Carolina.

“The Coalition for Good Governance would feel an obligation to immediately launch a legal challenge any decision to purchase barcoding ballot marking devices in NC,” Marks wrote in a statement to Carolina Public Press.

“Barcode balloting cannot pass constitutional muster… There are numerous other constitutional violations of the barcode balloting systems that courts must address if election officials prefer to favor vendors over voters.”
Mecklenburg County (Charlotte) presently uses the iVotronic touchscreen machine. Early voting is underway there in the NC-9 do-over election between Republican Dan "bathroom bill" Bishop and Democrat Dan McCready.

In North Carolina, "absentee" includes early voters, a.k.a. "One-Stop absentee" voting, where people can both register and vote at the same time.