Guilford County has been fighting a move by the State of North Carolina that would require the county to purchase new voting machines by the end of the year – and now the county is starting to see some support from other counties in the same situation.
There are about 20 other counties across the state that will be required to purchase new voting machines by the end of the year as well if a state law isn’t changed, and, like Guilford County, those counties don’t want to be forced to spend millions on new machines. About 80 of the state’s 100 counties have voting machines that already meet the new state guidelines that go into effect at the end of the year.
The state law, which is an unfunded mandate, would require Guilford County to spend an estimated $8 million on new machines that some consider less prone to hacking or other security concerns.
NC House Bill 502, which was filed on April 1, would exempt Guilford and Alamance counties from the state’s voting machine requirements; however, in the weeks since that bill was filed, it’s become clear that other counties want relief as well.
After the bill was introduced, Brunswick County asked to be included in that exemption.
Guilford County Board of Elections Director Charlie Collicutt said other counties are now weighing in.
“That bill has gathered some sponsors from other counties,” Collicutt said, adding that he expects to see more counties wanting to join in.
“The fact that Brunswick County added on leads me to believe that other people may try to get added to it as well,” Collicutt said.
He also said that another possible form of relief could be House Bill 851, a bill filed last week by state Rep. Julia Howard, who represents Davie and Rowan counties.
That new bill would delay the decertification of existing machines for the entire state until the end of 2021.
“It would grab all 20 counties that were affected,” Collicutt said. “It would be a statutory change.”
He added that, before any county can purchase new machines, the state’s elections board must certify which machines are allowable. So far there’s only one brand of machine certified. He said time is getting short and no one wants any county’s large voting machine purchase to be done as a rush job with only one available option.
“I think we’re all in the same boat,” Collicutt said of Guilford and the other counties that would be required to get new machines.
If no relief is granted, then, under the state law that goes into effect at the end of the year, all 1,430 of Guilford County’s touchscreen voting machines would have to be discarded – even though they’re in perfectly good working order – and the county would have to purchase new machines to replace them.
Guilford County’s touchscreen machines are of a style known as “direct-recording” machines that tabulate the votes electronically off of the touchscreen’s buttons and those machines would no longer be allowed. Though they create a paper record, some people argue that direct-recording machines are more susceptible to hacking than other types of voting machines.