Letter to the Editor: An open letter to the North Carolina State Board of Elections

Published 6:20 am Saturday, December 14, 2019

Dec. 11, 2019

To: North Carolina State Board of Elections

Dare County Board of Elections unanimously opposes the consideration of Elections Systems and Software’s request for certification of voting machines that have not met state or federal testing standards and apparently malfunctioned in Pennsylvania in a recent election.

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We have worked hard so Dare County voters can have confidence in the outcome of the 2020 elections by taking steps to ensure that the integrity of our elections process is maintained.

One of the primary reasons that the issue is being pushed is to satisfy some counties which don’t want the inconvenience of using paper ballots. If there is a problem with the machines, giving in to their wishes to use untested machines, not only could cast a shadow over their own elections process, but could impact counties across the state by causing voters to question results.

Disability groups have repeatedly said that they don’t want “segregated” ballots. This machine does segregate those ballots from others because it is different design and size.

In Dare County, we currently use the AutoMark which uses a printed ballot and marks it for the voter. It is then fed into the tabulator and is identical to other ballots. It is the only certified machine that truly meets the needs of the blind in the manner envisioned by HAVA. It is no longer in production.

The machine being considered produces a different ballot format and size so anyone seeing that ballot would immediately know that voter’s choices. The ballot is not “secret”.

“Trust us” isn’t a phrase that ESS should use after going through the certification process for the ExpressVote and, within a month, announcing it has met end-of-life and is no longer being manufactured.

Going into the 2018 elections, ESS sold Dare County twenty-two (22) DS200s after telling the former board that the new tabulators were updated to have a second feed needed to fit the smaller ballot produced by ExpressVote. They didn’t share that the product was reaching end-of-life and wouldn’t be available after certification. The cost for the unneeded upgrade was more than $100,000.

We don’t need a “solution” just to get us through one election; we need machines that can be used with confidence for the next several years.

Over many objections, in August the North Carolina Board of Elections certified three systems, one of which doesn’t produce a ballot and the other two can’t be delivered.

Voting advocates say that if this machine is certified and used, there will be lawsuits. The past few years have been stressful in the elections world – we don’t need more problems.

There should be a timeout so that a Request for Proposals can be issued and any certifications can be done properly. Also during that time, it would be good to determine how we arrived at this point so it can be avoided in the future.

Although HAVA mandated in 2002 that every precinct have a voting machine for disabled, that was 18 years before security issues changed much. Disability groups offer many alternatives including braille overlays that slide over regular ballots and phone services for the blind.

We appreciate the hard work done by state staff and by the State Board of Elections and look forward to continuing to work together in the future.


Sandy Semans Ross

Dare County Board of Elections


cc: Gov. Roy Cooper

Karen Brinson Bell, NCSBE director

Patrick Gannon, NCSBE public affairs

Bob Woodard, Dare County Board of Commissioners chairman