An Open Letter . . .

Good morning, Lawmakers…
I hadn’t planned to clutter your inbox, but I want you to know that NC Audit Force leadership has made an excellent point that changes my opinion. It starts with the SBE concerns over the hand counting of ballots. I originally weighed in as agnostic on a certain provision the SBE wanted to tweak in the 770 language,
As Carol Snow pointed out to me, there’s a key sentence in the middle of GS 163-165.7, which says, “Subject to all other applicable rules adopted by the State Board of Elections and, with respect to federal elections, subject to all applicable federal regulations governing voting systems, paper ballots marked by the voter and counted by hand shall be deemed a certified voting system.”
Let me repeat that.

Subject to all other applicable rules adopted by the State Board of Elections and, with respect to federal elections, subject to all applicable federal regulations governing voting systems, paper ballots marked by the voter and counted by hand shall be deemed a certified voting system.”  (NCGS 163-165.7)

Besides being a complete game changer, that single sentence, approved by both legislative chambers and signed by the Governor, shifts the burden onto the shoulders of North Carolina’s State Board of Elections.

What are they hiding?

So what happens if a county adopts an already certified voting system that doesn’t involve election machines?
Besides restoring public trust in the electoral process and reducing costs, what exactly is the threat to democracy we keep hearing about?
Now that we know hand counting is completely legal, exactly what made them threaten the Surry County Commission to within an inch of their lives if they adopted rules allowing a hand-count election?
Oh, I’m sure the Rogue SBE can mobilize their good goon friends at ES&S and a platoon of lobbyists will parachute into the GA to get that statutory language removed, but before you cave to their demands, please ask yourselves this important question:

Besides letting you win your last election, how has the SBE earned your trust?

Not to rehash their past duplicity, but here goes…
Remember the modem question? It’s still something they refuse to let your governing body investigate. As noted before, right after we learned the DS200 has a modem chip on the motherboard, Director Bell denied the presence of any modems in a strange way.
Instead of guaranteeing there were no modems, she told Rep Cleveland, in an email, “there is not a single modem of any type in any DS200 tabulator, according to ES&S.” Those last three words, “according to ES&S,” said more than anything else in her entire tenure.
Please recall how members of the Freedom Caucus announced their intent to open up just one machine in a “randomly” selected county in order to investigate her qualified claim. Instead of cooperating, she doubled down.
They must have invoked the full force of the US Government to prevent lawmakers from peeking inside of one machine. How can we trust them?

Painting a Chaotic Picture

In an effort to outlaw the hand counting of ballots, they painted a chaotic picture of the process and based it on some preventable scenarios. So, let’s explore their stated objections.
1. The “experts” oppose hand counting…
What are the ties between said experts and the highly lucrative election machine industry?
2. Multiple ballot styles…
Not if they’re counted at the precinct level.
3. Cost-prohibitive…
This assumes the counting is only conducted by full-time government employees with all of the pay and benefits thereof. It fails to consider a provision in NCGS 163-43 that allows the appointment of “ballot counters” to assist precinct Judges and their compensation, set at $5.00/day in 163-46.
4. Opportunity for error…
Why not create a study committee to adopt best practices for error avoidance? In the absence of an established processes, yes! There will be lots of error. Rather than resist this trend, why not develop ways to accommodate it?
5. The size of the jurisdiction…
The single biggest barrier to creating smaller precincts is equipment costs. Removing that barrier with a hand-counting system will enable counties to get rid of their massive precincts.
6. Accuracy of the machine count option…
Hey, didja know Nevada adopted a “parallel tabulation process” that machine counts after the hand count process is complete. They only allow it in counties with smaller precinct sizes, so adjusting the size of the precincts would have to be a factor in the study committee process. One suggestion is to hand count the (now) smaller precinct’s results, agreed on the totals, call in the totals to CBE HQ, escort the ballots to the CBE’s high-speed scanner, document any discrepancies.
7. The count would take weeks…
This hyperbole assumes precincts would remain the same size. Part of the procedure for this voting system would mandate a County Commission’s plan for reducing precinct sizes to a maximum of 1,000 voters. With Wake and Meck having around 600,000 voters, this would involve tripling the number of precincts. Not impossible, but let’s remember that hand counting is only an option and not a requirement.

The Bottom Line

Public pressure for hand counted balloting can end in one of two ways: a) suppression of anyone wanting to adopt this method, or b) developing workable ways to try it.
Rather than outlaw the hand-counting option, let’s take a two-step approach:
Step 1. Most urgently, enact procedures for citizen sample audits the day after Election Day. Such audits will either identify real evidence of machine “error” or it will not. If a legitimate audit process fails to produce evidence of problems, people will eventually get tired of doing them and the movement will eventually dissolve. If the audits DO reveal problems, you would need to have step two already completed.
Step 2. Start studying the matter now by consulting a wide range of the public to explore what it would take to hold an election if machines were not an option. I know lots of experts in this area, but maybe those Nevada officials would be willing to help too.

In Closing

Isn’t it funny how our military has overseen elections in Iraq and Afghanistan that met international standards, but our highly paid election “experts” cry that it would be too hard to do the same thing here? The election integrity movement is bigger than you may realize and it is growing because of the ballots vs. bullets dilemma.
Nations–and legislative majorities–that endure will recognize this trend and develop ways to make the electoral process more transparent… before it’s too late.
Jay DeLancy, Founder of Voter Integrity Project – NC
Lt Col, USAF (Retired)