NC voting machine reliability brought up as concern after issues with similar machines in other state

Updated: Dec. 2, 2019 at 7:16 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The North Carolina State Board of Elections is taking a closer look at voting machines they plan on purchasing after the same company’s machines were part of an election nightmare in a county in Pennsylvania.

The company ES&S makes the Express Vote XL, which was used in Pennsylvania on Election Day in November, but due to what is said to be a programming error, the votes were counted incorrectly.

Now, Mecklenburg County said they will do everything they can to make sure the same problem doesn’t happen here if the county gets state approval to purchase similar voting machines made by the same company.

The two voting machines are different models and work differently when a voter goes to cast a final ballot, but operate similarly when you’re marking the ballot. Mecklenburg County plans to purchase the Express Vote model instead of the Express Vote XL model.

The problems voters faced in Pennsylvania are bringing up some concerns of will North Carolina have enough time to properly test the machines before they’re supposed to make their debut in 2020.

“We program, send down to state approval, then back to me for final county approval, then back to the state for final state approval,” said Director of Elections for Mecklenburg County, Michael Dickerson. “The key is to test, test, test and test.”

WBTV is told the issues in Pennsylvania was part of a programming error, something Mecklenburg County ensures won’t happen.

“We’ve been making sure that everything we send out is going to give us the exact results we’re going to expect when we test vote it," said Dickerson.

But members of the state board of elections aren’t so confident in these new machines. A reporter asked Stella Anderson who is on the North Carolina State Board of Elections how we can ensure this doesn’t happen in Mecklenburg County.

“I dont’ know if we can,” Anderson replied. “We need to learn more about what went wrong. If it was the case about lack of preparation to implementing the system, being ready to go when put in use."

Anderson said there is another problem as well. She said the company ES&S might not have enough of the machines to ship to North Carolina for the next elections.

“ES&S at the 11th hour have told us they don’t have sufficient units of the Express Vote we certified in August to actually ship to and provide to the counties that planned to use the Express Vote units," she said.

The State Board of Elections are expected to have a meeting this week to discuss more options moving forward.

These new voting machines still have to be approved but Mecklenburg County hopes they will be here, tested and ready to use for the start of early voting for the March primaries.

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