Russian hackers beware: Guilford County voting machines will supposedly be harder to hack than before.

At a Thursday, Nov. 21 work session, Guilford County Board of Elections Director Charlie Collicutt put on a demonstration of new voting machines that county voters will be using in 2020. At a second meeting, held right after the demonstration, the Board of Commissioners voted to purchase the new machines for roughly $2.2 million.

The commissioners aren’t happy about having to buy new machines. The voting machines the county has been using for the past 15 years work just fine. However, state legislators passed a law that require machines used in North Carolina to be more paper ballot centric than the electronic ones Guilford County has been using – so the board essentially had no choice.

Under the new system, voters will be given a pre-printed ballot and will fill in circles like they’re taking a standardized test such as the SAT.

The county will have pens for voters to use – or people can use their favorite pencil or pen.

“We’ll provide them, but you could use your own pen,” Collicutt said.

The completed paper ballots are fed into a tabulating machine.

If a voter makes a mistake – such as voting for three candidates in a race where they’re allowed to only vote for two – the machine will alert the voter and he or she will have the option of getting a new ballot and filling it out. The voter will also be able to cast the flawed ballot, but the votes in the problem race will not count.

Collicutt said this a very basic system.

“This is the baseline you can have in the county. This is the baseline you can have in North Carolina,” he said.

Collicutt also said that the votes are stored on a secure, encrypted USB drive.

“These USBs and this whole system will never touch a computer that’s connected to the outside world,” he said, adding that elections workers will only use brand new USB drives fresh out of the packaging.

“You are never taking a USB that has touched the internet and using it with a tabulating machine,” he said.

Collicutt said there will also be post election audits after the election and they will review the votes from random precincts and have a bipartisan team look at those samples to make sure the paper totals match the electronic totals.