History of NC Verified Voting Law

History of North Carolina’s Struggle for Verified Voting and Transparent Elections

We’ve come a long way, but we remain dilligent in protecting our accomplishments, while seeking to make improvements.

Our paper ballot law, passed August 2005,  faces challenges each year. Threats continue to come from well intentioned ideas for election reform, from pressure by vendors and from officials who do not like paper ballots.  If you review the history , we fought long and hard to get the law passed, and we had to defend it afterwards from vendors  and special interests who didn’t like the strict requirements.  We had to go to court repeatedly  to defend the law.  We had to work county by county  to get the more reliable optical scanners.  Our law is at risk right now. The opponents of election integrity haven’t stopped yet. 

HISTORY OF THE PUBLIC CONFIDENCE IN ELECTIONS LAW

Andy Silver, of Cary, David Allen of High Point (www.blackboxvoting.com ) and I (Jan 2004 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ncverifiablevoting/  )and Richard Stimpson (now deceased)  met to discuss efforts at persuading lawmakers to stop paperless voting back in early 2004.   Then in March of 2004, it was Andy Silver who convinced his state senator, Ellie Kinnaird to draft a bill to at least put a moratorium on the state’s further purchase of paperless voting, and to set up a study committee. Unfortunately the bill became a study bill and then it died in the rules committee. That study committee would suddenly be a new idea after the Nov 04 meltdown.

Experts and citizens warned the North Carolina State Legislature ahead of time:
May 28, 2004. Senator Ellie Kinniard and Representative Verla Inskos drafted a bill to study whether all touch screen or direct record voting machines should produce a voter verified paper trail and to place a moratorium on paperless touch screen/DRE machines until July 1, 2005.  This study bill was sent to the “rules” committee and died. http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2003/Bills/Senate/HTML/S1415v1.html
Activists raised the issue in the public awareness by writing letters to the editor and op/eds dating back to April 2004 and since, before people would take the issue seriously.  http://www.ncvoter.net/opinion.htmlThen after Nov 2004 catastrophe, the legislators and the SBOE all wanted to come up with a solution to the catastrophe that Nov 04 was.  The problems were more extensive than the loss of votes in Carteret, see North Carolina’s Ballot Blues . We had machines crashing, we had missing votes, votes counted twice by accident, all sorts of problems, not the fault of poll workers by any means..

Then Sen Kinnaird and Rep Insko were given the go ahead to start the Joint Select Committee on Electronic Voting.   There were hearings, and there was testimony by experts, proponents and opponents over the months of Nov, Dec, and Jan. Results and a bill were reported in begginning of Feb.  See the results of the JSCV . The Joint Select Committee met several times over the winter months. 

Joint Select Committee Hearings Overview:

State Board of Elections member Bob Cordle, Democrat – sent this letter  to the committee – opposing voter verified paper ballots.  Mr. Cordle also submitted a letter from the Election Center  opposing and denigrating voter verified paper ballots. Cordle served on the Joint Select Committee on Electronic Voting and represented the SBOE. 

In December of 2004, computer scientist Justin Moore gave a  presentation about software engineering and security [PPT, 452 KB] to a Joint Special Committee of the North Carolina State Assembly. He continuted to serve as a technical advisor to the Committee throughout its work, resulting in bills H238 and SB223 in the North Carolina General Assembly

Guilford County Election Director George Gilbert, submitted testimony to the Joint Select Committee on 12/20/2004  in opposition to Voter Verified Paper Ballots, “On Behalf of the NC Association of Directors of Election” .  See Dr. Justin Moore’s rebuttal  to Gilbert dated Jan. 20, 2005.

On Jan. 7, 2005, Dr. Rebecca Mercuri advised NC lawmakers to get rid of touch screens for reasons including flawed paper trails printers. See Dr. Mercuri’s full recommendations .

Also on Jan. 7, 2005 Chuck Herrin, IT certification specialist and “white hat” hacker gave this presentation  to lawmakers.

On February 24, 2005 –  NC State Senator Ellie Kinnaird introduced The Public Confidence in Elections Act  which passed with unanimous and bi-partisan support on August 11, 2005. Representative Verla Insko introduced the House Version H 238.  The bill was drafted by the members of the Joint Select Committee on Electronic Voting.  It became law, SL 2005-323 on August 26, 2005. 

On August 11, 2005, Election Director George Gilbert returned to Raleigh and testified to the House Election Law Committee  again to oppose paper ballots. He asked lawmakers instead to allow for a “paperless verification system” that makes a secondary digital recording of the ballot image.  Gilbert said lawmakers should use this instead of Voter Verified Paper Ballots.

After the law was passed, efforts were made to gut it and or kill it.  Diebold tried to gut the law, some individual counties and then the NC Association of County Commissioners tried to get it delayed, repealed and or gutted.

Our legal battles – Diebold v. North Carolina Board of Elections, also McCloy v. North Carolina v. Board of Elections

The Battle Against the NC Association of County Commissioners and The County By County Battle

Most of our opposition seemed to come from  some election officials, even though many support paper ballots. The State BOE, who are good dedicated and impartial professionals – unfortunately opposed (and still seems to do oppose) paper ballots, and still today holds out for fully electronic systems (without paper) in the future. 

Some sections of the law are already being cast aside. instead of making the Instant Runoff Voting Pilot fit our law, un-certified “work arounds”  have been crafted for touch screens that circumvent key sections of the law to fit IRV.  Since Hendersonville did not have to hold a “runoff”, this uncertified method was not used. There will be no cost savings, since our new voting machines cannot handle IRV and there are no certified systems available that can. IRV proponents say “IRV is as easy as 1-2-3”  and meanwhile, gutting our election integrity law is as “easy as 1-2-3”.

Now comes “instant runoff voting”, another “reform” that may diminish election integrity. Now we are reading in the Asheville Citizen Times this headline: Exit poll: Hendersonville voters understood ballot  The Times reports:
“Most Hendersonville voters, 65 percent of more than 800 surveyed, said they came to the polls Nov. 6 prepared for the ranked-choice ballot, according to Cobb’s exit survey. The results match the positive opinions he heard last month from Cary voters about a ballot that asked them to rank candidates in order of preference.”
We all should be wondering is how anyone can say that it is a good thing that 35% of voters polled – were not prepared for the new ballot they faced? Especially since being prepared to rank choices is key to whether or how much your ballot counts?
This level of preparedness for ranking choices in Hendersonville is where polled voters in San Francisco were in their first year.  And if Hendersonville were to follow San Francisco’s trend into the next year, then the numbers will worsen.
The proportion of voters who had prior knowledge of RCV was lower in 2005 (54%) than in the 2004 election for the Board of Supervisors (67%).http://www.sfgov.org/site/uploadedfiles/election/Elections_Pages/July1706.pdf
Its truly appalling that anyone could be applauding the fact that 35% of voters were in effect not prepared to make their vote fully count.  **Because with IRV, if you don’t rank a 2nd and 3rd choice, and there is a runoff, then you are not participating.  If you mistakenly rank the same candidate 3 times, then you aren’t voting in the 2nd and 3rd rounds.
The exit poll used in Hendersonville and Cary was one page with very few questions, and polled an uniformed electorate.  The reason I say “uninformed” is that I have seen debates go on and on over what IRV is, how votes must be cast and how they are weighted and counted.  Many people don’t understand what IRV really is, nor what other choices are available besides traditional runoffs.  Many voters don’t know that sometimes a traditional runoff is a good thing!
The saddest thing is that an election transparency law that has been applauded around the country is being erroded for a very little understood election “reform” of questionable value.
It appears that there is a high tolerance for lost votes and disenfranchised voters in our state, as evidenced by the fact that NC has the highest undervote rate for President in the  United States.  This is related to the rule whereStraight Ticket doesn’t count for President .
Citizens and activists around the state should take pause at the events and potential unraveling of our law that is unfolding around us. We should also be concerned about preventing future and unneccessary disenfranchisement of our voters.
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