With early voting on the horizon, election officials take steps to ensure security, accuracy of NC primary

Capitol Report

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – With early voting set to begin next week, local and state election officials are taking a variety of steps aimed at ensuring the security and accuracy of this year’s primary.

“There’s a lot of misinformation going around out there,” said Gary Sims, director of the Wake County Board of Elections. “Perception to some could be reality.”

The issue was magnified this week by the confusion surrounding the Democratic caucuses on Monday in Iowa. Party officials say errors with an app meant to tabulate results has led to delays in reporting the outcome of the caucuses. As of 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, the Iowa Democratic Party had posted results for 85 percent of the precincts.

North Carolina’s primary election is a different process and does not rely on an app to transmit data. While the caucus in Iowa was run by the Democratic Party, primary elections in North Carolina are run by county governments with state and federal law outlining how that process can work.

“People need to understand we take this seriously. This is my vote, too. This is my daughter’s vote. This is my friends’ vote. We want to make sure everyone’s vote is secure,” said Sims.

In most counties, including Wake, voters fill out a paper ballot by hand. Wake County recently purchased about $1.8 million worth of new equipment to tabulate results. Those tabulators are brought back to a central location to process the votes. Sims said at no point do the machines connect to the internet, minimizing the risk of interference.

“There’s no modems. There’s nothing connected. Everything is a physical process,” he said. “For this primary, we ran over 114,000 test ballots through our tabulators.”

Some counties, such as Mecklenburg, will use touch-screen devices that produce a paper ballot. Last year, as the State Board of Elections considered which voting machines to allow counties to use, some voters raised concerns about whether they’d be able to reliably read the printout from the machines and ensure the accuracy of their votes. They also raised cybersecurity concerns.

The NCSBE points out the machines are certified and audited, and that state law prohibits them from being connected to the internet.

The regular voter registration deadline is Friday, Feb. 7. This is the last opportunity to update your name and address or to switch party registration. Voters can still register and vote at the same time during the early voting period, which begins Feb. 13.

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