Elections Board Responds to Voter Group's Demand Letter - TribPapers

Elections Board Responds to Voter Group’s Demand Letter

WNC Freedom points to www.ncsbe.gov/voting/voting-equipment webpage as proof the state considers SOSA check-in is voting equipment. A state board of elections spokesperson told the Tribune that it is not. Screenshot of part of the www.ncsbe.gov/voting/voting-equipment webpage.

Buncombe County – Last week, the Tribune reported on a demand letter that was delivered to the Buncombe County Board of Elections on Thursday (October 20th) by WNC Freedom 2020, a voter integrity group. In the letter, the group asked several questions, to which Buncombe County Board of Election Director Corinne Duncan says she has replied by the group’s deadline of October 27th.

Duncan told the Tribune via email, “Our office received a letter from Kay Taylor on October 22nd and responses were provided by October 27th as requested.”

She goes on to address the letter’s first point that NCAC 04 .0301 (2) requires that voting systems shall enable the voter to vote a straight party ticket in a general election. Duncan says, “State law no longer allows straight-party voting. Please see N.C.G.S. § 163-165.6(f), which reads: ‘No Straight-Party Voting.- Each official ballot shall not contain any place that allows a voter with one mark to vote for the candidates of a party for more than one office.”

Then, Duncan addresses the second point in the letter, which is “Confirm that all versions of voting systems and voting equipment in use have had any network-connection capability disabled and cannot connect to any network, including but not limited to the internet, intranet, fax, telephone line, networks established via modem, or any other wired or wireless connection.”

“Our tabulators (these are the machines where voters place their voted ballots; currently, in Buncombe, it is the ES&S DS200) do not have the ability to connect to the internet nor do they contain modems,” replied Duncan.

WNC Freedom 2020’s letter also asked in point two, “This includes but is not limited to NCSBE SOSA, ES&S ExpressVote, and ES&S DS200 Voting Equipment, all listed as “Voting Equipment” for Election Day Voting and One-Stop Early Voting on the NC State Board Of Elections website.” SOSA is currently the system used in all North Carolina counties for early voting.

Duncan told the Tribune, “SOSA is not a voting system because it does not cast or tabulate ballots. It is the state’s electronic poll book software used in all counties during early voting to check in voters and ensure they get the proper ballot style and are recorded as having received their ballot. SOSA has no connection at any time with any tabulator, as connections to tabulators are not possible.”

Kay Olsen, a member of WNC Freedom 2020, told the Tribune after receiving Duncan’s reply letter, “So here’s what’s interesting. She [Duncan] claims that the SOSA is not part of the voting system, which is interesting because the state identifies all the elements, essentially once you walk in the door, as [part of the] voting system.”

While that’s all the answers provided to the Tribune by Duncan about the group’s points, in a letter by Duncan to the WNC Freedom 2020 group, obtained by the Tribune, he goes on to answer each point, including stating, “There are no modems in voting equipment in North Carolina” and “No machines are available for inspection. Please see “Request for Access to Voting Systems” for additional information. State law provides for limited access to voting system sourcecode, which is required, by state law, to be secured in an escrow account. See G.S. 163-165.7(a)(6).”

Duncan also told WNC Freedom 2020, “All machines meet all state, local, and federal requirements. SOSA is not a voting system.” However, Olsen told the Tribune, “The last time they [the machines] were certified was in 2018.” Asked how often the machines were supposed to be certified, Olsen replied, “Every election.”   

What the State Board of Elections says about the matter

The Tribune reached out to the state board of elections for clarification on several issues brought up by WNC Freedom 2020. In addition, the Tribune asked how often election equipment is certified.

Patrick Gannon, a public information officer with the state board of elections office, told the Tribune, “Once a specific voting system is certified, it is certified until it is decertified by the State Board of Elections. Any changes, upgrades, or improvements to a certified system must be approved by the State Board.” 

Gannon says, “Every piece of voting equipment used in an election must be tested before each election in a process called logic and accuracy testing. These tests ensure machines will correctly read each ballot type and accurately count votes in an upcoming election.”

Also asked is whether the state board of elections considers the SOSA to be part of the voting system as outlined by NC 163-165. Like Duncan, the state also does not consider SOSA to be a voting system. Gannon stated, “SOSA is not voting equipment or a voting system. It is the state’s electronic poll book software used in all counties during early voting to check in voters and ensure they get the proper ballot style and are recorded as having received their ballot. It has nothing to do with the casting or tabulation of ballots.”

Asked about her reaction to Duncan’s response, Olsen brought up the deposition of Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky trial. “You remember when Bill Clinton was in trouble and he was trying to get a definition of what it is?” said Olsen. “That’s what this is.”

When told the state board of elections did not consider the SOSA early voting check-in books on computers as part of the voting system, Olsen said the SOSA is listed on the voting equipment webpage (www.ncsbe.gov/voting/voting-equipment) as part of the voting system. 

Olson said her group is deciding on their next course of action and is conferring with legal counsel.