North Carolina currently ranks high in election integrity, but it wasn’t always so. Prior to 2000, we had no uniform standards for voting systems and election administration. Our 100 counties used 18 different types of voting machines, some nearly 40 years old. Four suppliers of the machines were no longer in business, maintenance was limited, vendor support was sparse and security was a joke.
Training for poll workers and election staff was disjointed and incomplete. All counties did their own thing with ballot printing, and few complied with federal laws and standards. So, in 2004, we had a Florida-style meltdown, with the loss of nearly 5,000 votes in Carteret County, machines crashing, votes missing or counted twice by accident, etc. These were largely systemic problems that came from not having or complying with standards for election integrity.
After the meltdown, the General Assembly formed a special committee, which took weeks of testimony from experts. The resulting Public Confidence in Elections Act passed with unanimous bipartisan support and became law in August 2005. That law created statewide standards administered by the State Board of Elections.
Every county must have machines, software, ballot designs, etc., that must be tested, certified and maintained as a system. The law also required post-election audits and collection and publication of election data for improving future elections.
That law transformed us from a Florida-style laughingstock in 2004 to being ranked No. 1 in 2006 on our ability to count votes and audit elections, as well as being ranked as one of the top eight states in readiness for the 2008 general election. Funding from the Help America Vote Act helped get us there. We got a share of $3.8 billion distributed to all states for equipment replacement and other maintenance/upgrades, allocated by Congress in 2002.