2005 A law that counts

Point of View Published: Dec 29, 2005
A law that counts

“A Florida-style nightmare has unfolded in North Carolina in the days since Election Day, with thousands of votes missing and the outcome of two statewide races still up in the air.” — AP Newswire, Nov. 13, 2004

The sorry state of North Carolina elections became national news late last year. As a result, Senate Bill 223, the Public Confidence in Elections Act, was passed unanimously by the General Assembly in August of this year.

Now that it is time to implement this law, it is coming under attack. It seems that one voting machine vendor and some county commissioners don’t like the requirements of the new election integrity law, so they want to change it.

In a letter to the State Board of Elections, Charles Owen, a lawyer for Diebold Election Systems, explained that the company “will be unable to comply with the deadlines imposed by the State Board of Elections in addition to the requirements of state law.” He added that Diebold’s “difficulty is not with our software, but with the software that is not owned or controlled by Diebold Election Systems Incorporated. This includes operating systems, drivers and myriad other pieces of code that are present in any computer system.”In the cover e-mail to which the letter was attached, Owen helpfully offered “to work with the State Board of Elections…in getting the current Session Law revised, so that all vendors will be able to comply”.

Diebold was decertified in California in 2004 because the software it placed in escrow was not the software installed on the voting machines. However, unlike in California and other states, such a violation of North Carolina’s escrow requirements is a felony

One distributor has complied with the new law and is ready to deliver two types of verifiable voting machines that can be audited and recounted on a cost-effective basis in time for the 2006 elections. Choice would be great, but the important thing is that our elections be secure.

Thanks to SB 223, our state’s reputation for voting integrity has begun to be repaired. The law is working fine in improving our voting systems and unmasking the problems of weak or unreliable vendors who disrupted our elections in 2004. There is no need to weaken the law, damage voter confidence or risk the loss of $55 million in funding from the federal Help America Vote Act just to accommodate several counties that would like even more money to buy the most expensive yet least reliable of voting systems. There is no situation requiring change to the law. It was designed to do exactly as it has done — weed out those systems that weren’t fully transparent and protect our votes.

The governor should not waste taxpayer money and endanger the federal funds to implement the Help America Vote Act by calling a special session. Citizens need our elected representatives to stand up and to tell the would-be dismantlers of the law to take a hike. We need SB 223 to stick.

(Joyce McCloy is founder of the N.C. Coalition for Verified Voting.)

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