CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Ahead of North Carolina’s primary vote on March 3, the Department of Homeland Security scheduled a visit to the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections.
Acting Secretary Chad Wolf visited the facility on Thursday to discuss election security and get a tour of newly purchased election equipment which will be used for the first time during the March primary. The machines were first used during early voting, which ends February 29.
Acting Secretary Wolf was in a closed door round table session for about 45 minutes with election officials from the county and state, along with representatives from different cyber security organizations. Afterwards, he toured the facility which houses the new election voting machines Mecklenburg County purchased for 2020. Those machines have been tested 30,000 times amidst some backlash about the software being used.
The Meck Board of Elections say the system is similar to the ones used in the past. Voters will cast their vote on a computer touch screen, which is not connected to the internet. Once you’re done, that computer will print out a paper ballot that shows your votes selected. Voters will make sure those votes are correct and then walk over the paper to a different machine that will read the votes. Voters insert their paper into that machine and your vote will be cast.
All elections in North Carolina will have a paper ballot so voters can double check they voted for the right thing. Homeland security says they estimate about 90% of all voting precincts in 2020 will have a paper ballot.
Wolf said Homeland Security is working with several agencies in all 50 states to help share information between election officials on how they’re keeping elections secure. He says this is a stark contrast from the 2016 election, where election precincts operated more independently.
“The threat to our election is real. While there’s no specific intelligence that our adversaries are targeting elections systems, we do know they would like no more than to see us divided,” Wolf said.
Voting and election security is a top priority for many voters in Mecklenburg County. Many don’t have confidence that elections in 2020 won’t be at least somewhat influenced.
“I don’t put it past anybody to cheat on an election,” said Gretchen Jax who cast her ballot early in uptown Charlotte.
It’s a disappointing viewpoint that many voters think is reality. Even if their vote is counted properly, they have concerns about other influences they could accidentally be receptive to.
“It’s on my mind with the foreign interference and more so on social media and what you see there,” said Eric Davis.
The most important thing for these voters though, is for people to actually get out there and vote.
“I have my doubt but however I feel like I’m doing my part. That’s what I can control,” said voter Blakely Milam.
Voters were happily surprised to hear about Homeland Security’s visit to Mecklenburg County and said that makes them feel more secure going into November.
“It makes voters feel more comfortable. It’s all about perception,” said Milam. “It’s a good thing they’re coming out and making us feel like they’re more secure, especially with everything that’s been going on.”