NAACP gets reports of problems with electronic voting machines in New Hanover County

Published: Oct. 25, 2016 at 1:02 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 25, 2016 at 1:11 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The North Carolina Chapter of the NAACP says it has received reports that electronic voting machines "may have malfunctioned" in New Hanover and at least four other counties, and is calling on state and county elections officials "to make efficient and effective remedies to maintain confidence and trust in the elections."

Rev. Kojo Nantambu, the Director of Religious Emphasis Advocacy for the state NAACP, said three individuals have expressed concerns about the voting machines in New Hanover County. All three used one-stop voting at the Government Center on Saturday, October 22.

According to Nantambu, one individual pushed the screen to vote for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. When the voter reviewed her ballot, she saw the machine had checked the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

The second voter informed Nantambu she had pressed the screen to vote for a Democratic candidate, and the check on the screen went to the Republican candidate. The third individual had not yet provided Nantambu the information on his concern.

NC NAACP officials said that in the instances of which they are aware, voters have been able to fix the problem before submitting their vote.

"The machine is not working and people are voting on it," said Nantambu. "That's just as bad as suppressing the vote, because the vote is not counting properly."

According to Derek Bowens, elections director for New Hanover County, each touch-screen machine (iVotronic) at each site goes through a thorough calibration process at the beginning of each morning, and any machine that experiences a problem is removed from rotation until the issue has been resolved.

Bowens said that voters have two opportunities to resolve an issue before casting their ballot:

1, If a voter notices an issue with the accuracy of their selections, they should notify an election official so the ballot can be cancelled and the machine re-calibrated.

2, Each iVotronic machine allows voters to go through a contest-by-contest review before casting their ballot. If a voter notices an issue during the review, an election official should be notified immediately.

Nantambu said the NAACP is planning a news conference in Wilmington on Tuesday afternoon, around 4:15 p.m., and is working to have one of the individuals present to speak about the issue. Representatives also are working to have signed affidavits from the individuals at the news conference.

In a letter to the State Board of Elections on Monday, the NAACP said it has also received reports of malfunctioning machines in Cumberland, Iredell, Mecklenburg and Catawba counties.  Dr. William Barber, the president of the NC NAACP, requested state elections officials work with county officials on the problem.

"As an initial stopgap for this problem, we have requested that the State Board of Elections immediately provide all County Board of Elections that use electronic machines with (1) new signage that can be placed at all stations that reminds voters to check and confirm choices using the review screen before submitting your ballot and (2) offers voters the opportunity to use a regular paper ballot if the machine is malfunctioning," Barber said in a statement contained in an email news release. "Where a County Board does not have a paper ballot back-up available, we ask that the SBOE immediately help to rectify that."

Bowens added that it is illegal in this state to take images or recordings of voted ballots.

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