DOBSON — With voting machines becoming a hot-button issue across the country in the wake of the 2020 election, efforts have been undertaken locally and statewide aimed at ensuring the integrity of those devices.
This included logic and accuracy (L&A) testing being conducted last week at the Surry County Service Center in Dobson to ensure machines will correctly read each ballot type and accurately count votes for the upcoming general election. It took place in a large meeting room beside the Surry Board of Elections office.
Three bipartisan teams of precinct officials from different areas of the county performed the testing during a planned day-long process leading to a reassuring outcome where accuracy in the voting equipment used at local precincts is concerned.
“The machines correctly read each ballot style for the upcoming general election as a result,” Surry Director of Elections Michella Huff reported.
“This is one more step in the process to reflect the machines are election-ready.”
The general election will be held on Nov. 8, but devices will be pressed into service before then when one-stop, no-excuse early voting begins at two locations, in Mount Airy and Dobson, on Oct. 20.
In anticipation of the election, the logic and accuracy testing targeted every machine used in all 100 North Carolina counties.
Under a procedure prescribed by the N.C. State Board of Elections, test ballots are marked by hand and by ballot-marking devices before being counted by a tabulator. These ballots are filled out according to a test script, which is designed to simulate the various combinations of selections citizens could make on their ballots during actual voting.
Huff advised that the machines tested in Surry were DS200 tabulators (all 33 in the county were checked) and the ExpressVote type (all 28 were tested). ExpressVote is a ballot-marking machine that can be used as an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) device for any voter who wishes or needs to mark a ballot independently.
Federal law requires each precinct to have at least one Americans with Disabilities Act-approved voting device.
After the test ballots are run through the machines and results are printed and read, the machines are then reset to ensure no testing information remains in the devices, the local elections official explained.
And the security procedures do not end there.
“All equipment is sealed and recorded for chain of custody for opening on election morning at the polls, or on the opening of one-stop (voting) for two of the DS200s and two ExpressVotes,” Huff mentioned regarding the early balloting devices.
In addition to being sealed, the state requires voting equipment to be locked in a secure area until transported to the voting places.
Tamper-evident seals are placed on media ports, voting machines are never connected to the Internet and they also lack modems, officials say. A person would need physical access to a machine to install any type of virus or malware, they assure.
County election boards document the chain of custody of voting equipment when it is moved from its secure storage location, under state-required procedures.
Additionally, even assuming unauthorized access were possible, the tabulators recognize only approved and verified media/USB (Universal Serial Bus) interfaces and will ignore any unverified media.
Among other precautions, the coding for a particular election is encrypted and, when loaded on a machine, requires the validation of a digital signature to confirm that the data is from a trusted source.