With only hours to go before Tuesday’s municipal elections, a trial judge has turned away North Carolina’s effort to avoid using the polling-place software of a company targeted by Russian hackers last year. Lawyers for the state elections board said the Election Day poll book software that VR Systems provides to nearly 30 of North Carolina’s 100 counties hasn’t been officially certified. VR Systems persuaded an administrative law judge last Friday to side with the Florida-based company, which says the software remains approved under the original certification it obtained eight years ago, in October 2009. Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway declined to intervene, deferring to Administrative Law Judge Don Overby’s ongoing oversight of the case, including a proposed hearing set for next spring. The elections board formally asked the state Court of Appeals late Monday to delay the enforcement of Overby’s restraining order and preliminary injunction.
The election board’s staff is still investigating what they call the malfunctioning of the e-books at five Durham County precincts in November 2016, which led officials to abandon the electronic system, issue paper ballots and extend voting hours. It’s unknown how many voters may have given up.
State election officials also became worried after federal officials warned that Russian spies tried to target VR Systems and send malicious emails that seemed to come from the company to more than 100 local election officials across the country. State officials said none of the 21 counties that used the software in North Carolina last year received suspected phishing emails, but the problems haven’t been fully investigated.
Lawyers for VR Systems wrote in court filings that a consultant hired by the Durham County attorney ultimately determined that the software didn’t fail or malfunction, instead blaming county elections workers for failing to prepare equipment properly to work with the software.