When Can We Kill Touch-Screen Voting Machines?

    Rep Julie Howard

Aug 6, 2019 (Raleigh) A measure we deeply opposeHouse Bill 851, sponsored by Rep Julia Howard (R-Davie, Rowan) cleared a key milestone July 10, when the House Committee on Elections and Ethics Law approved the idea of delaying the decertification of DRE (or Direct Recording Equipment) voting machines that were first slated for banishment in a 2013 law, but has been delayed ever since.

The first effort to decertify the DRE voting systems, which came in the 2013 omnibus election reform bill, known as VIVA or HB 589, said, “Any direct record electronic (DRE) voting systems currently certified by the State Board of Elections which do not use paper ballots shall be decertified and shall not be used in any election held on or after January 1, 2018. Decertification of a DRE voting system that does not use paper ballots may not be appealed to the Superior Court of Wake County pursuant to G.S. 163-165.7(b).”

The language was included at the behest of both the Voter Integrity Project and other complaints either that alleged touch screen biases favoring one candidate over another or of machines dumping all votes before they could be reported. The most infamous case, being in 2004’s Carteret County election where 4,438 out of 7,536 early ballots were lost forever and a new election countywide was ordered.

In 2010, NC GOP Chairman Tom Fetzer filed a lawsuit to ban the machines, but it never went anywhere, after Democrat Party Executive Director Andrew Whalen called the lawsuit “reckless and absurd.”

In 2016, five NC counties reported cases of machines wrongly identifying voters’ choices, but election officials dismissed the complaints as “nothing outside the norm for a presidential election year.”

Elsewhere, Democrats had a different view. In 2017, Virginia’s Democrat-controlled State Board of Elections voted to ban the machines and in 2018, Georgia’s NAACP filed complaints about instances where the touch-screen machines “showed ballots being cast before any the person [sic] actually voted.”

There have been at least two delays that we counted over the years all for the same reason and July’s delay had the same excuse: “Some counties do not have the budget to replace their aging machines.”

Granted, the machines do cost a great deal of money, but these are programmed expenses that involve issues like a product life cycle. Since the bill first passed in 2013, it begs the question about when counties will ever be able to afford replacement of machines that are roundly criticized by academic elites as being a bad idea that should not be allowed for the 2020 elections and paper ballots should be used throughout the nation.

Howard’s bill would delay the decertification of the DRE from December 1, 2019, to December 1, 2021, for counties that use direct record electronic voting machines.