North Carolina

Articles about voting issues in North Carolina.

North Carolina: Russian hacking in Durham? DHS looking into machines used in 2016 election | Mona Tong and Rose Wong/The Chronicle

The Department of Homeland Security is investigating the equipment—provided by a company allegedly targeted by Russian hackers—used in Durham County during the 2016 election. On Election Day in 2016, certain voting machines malfunctioned by incorrectly telling voters they had already cast their ballot, leading affected polling stations to switch to paper poll books, according to the Washington Post. The equipment also asked some people for photo identification, which was not legally required at the time. This snafu created lengthy delays and led some precincts to extend voting hours. Durham County then tapped the cybersecurity company Protus3 to conduct an investigation into the situation in 2016. The firm concluded that poll workers caused the error for several voters, but it was inconclusive about the other issues and offered ideas for further investigation, leading North Carolina to deem the findings inconclusive.

Full Article: Russian hacking in Durham? DHS looking into machines used in 2016 election - The Chronicle.

North Carolina: Bill to spare DRE voting machines advances | Taft Wireback/Greensboro News & Revord

State legislators approved a bill Wednesday that could delay an estimated $8 million expense for Guilford County by giving its voting machines a temporary reprieve. The state House voted unanimously for HB 19, which would open the door for Guilford, Forsyth, Alamance and other counties to keep using “Direct Record Electronic” voting machines through the next general election. The current deadline for using such machines is December, which Guilford election officials estimate could cost the county about $8 million in the midst of a lean budget year. The new measure does not name Guilford specifically — or any other county — but it gives local officials statewide the option of asking their county election staff to seek a reprieve from the state Board of Elections in Raleigh.

Full Article: Bill to spare Guilford-style voting machines advances | Local News | greensboro.com.

North Carolina: State wants to know who owns voting-machine makers | Emery P. Delesio/Associated Press

North Carolina won’t clear voting-machine makers to sell their systems to county elections boards until it learns more about who owns them, the state’s elections board chairman said Friday. The decision comes amid worries of foreign election interference that have grown since special counsel Robert Mueller’s April report into Russian efforts to sway the 2016 presidential election. Mueller’s report “essentially says everybody should be concerned about this and everybody should be looking harder at a lot of these things to make sure we’re protected as best we can be,” said Robert Cordle, the head of the state elections board. “It’s just a matter of doing our due diligence now to make sure there are no problems.” The state board is giving the three companies that have already passed several rounds of screening until June 21 to disclose anyone holding a 5 percent or greater interest in their company, their parent company or any subsidiaries.

Full Article: North Carolina wants to know who owns voting-machine makers.

North Carolina: Concerns over voting machines underscores importance of election security | Justin Sherman/WRAL.com

Two weeks ago, Politico reported on a Florida-based election software company that may be unwittingly involved in election security problems in North Carolina. The company was targeted by Russian hackers in 2016 and this effort may have given the hackers remote access to a computer in Durham County that managed a voter list management tool. Now, North Carolina officials are delaying approval of new voting machines for use in the 2020 elections—due to uncertainty over the ownership of the machine suppliers in question. This underscores something that’s only recently come to the forefront of American attention: The abysmal state of election security in the United States. Many countries still use paper ballots to count votes. But in the United States, this isn’t required by law. Many states use electronic devices to count votes in elections. And their security is terrible.  At a 2018 conference, security expert Rachel Tobac showed how easily one can gain administrative access to an electronic voting machine, in-person, in under two minutes. Dozens of kids, at the same event, were likewise able to quickly gain illicit access to replica voting websites.

Full Article: JUSTIN SHERMAN: Concerns over N.C. voting machines underscores importance of election security :: WRAL.com.

North Carolina: Election hacking: North Carolina officials won’t approve new voting machines | Raleigh News & Observer

North Carolina election officials were supposed to certify new voting machines on Thursday for millions of voters to start using in 2020. But they declined to make any decisions, citing uncertainty over who owns the three companies that were seeking approval to sell voting machines here. The state gave them until next week to divulge everyone who owns at least 5 percent of their companies or any parent or subsidiary company. “I believe this follows along with the cyber security concerns we have found in the Mueller report and other documentation that has been furnished to our board,” Robert Cordle, the chairman of the State Board of Elections, said Thursday when the board announced its surprise decision. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report indicated that a company that provides voting software in some North Carolina counties may have been compromised by Russian hackers in 2016. That company’s software can’t be used to change or record votes; it only deals with checking voters in to the polls.

Full Article: Election hacking: NC officials won’t approve new voting machines | Raleigh News & Observer.

North Carolina: With Guilford and Mecklenburg voting machines facing decertification, confusion looms for 2020 election | By Will Doran/Greensboro News & Record

Roughly a third of North Carolina voters use electronic machines with no paper ballots. But that might all change next year for the 2020 presidential election. Supporters of the change say it will help ensure election security, especially given reports from the FBI and other sources that the Russian government attempted to influence America’s 2016 elections and may have hacked into some U.S. voting software. But the switch has been held up for years, despite first being ordered in a 2013 law. Now, some officials — including some in Guilford County and the new state elections director — worry that there’s not enough time left to get new voting systems in place for the 2020 elections. Guilford County uses an electronic machine with a paper backup, said Chris Duffey, deputy director of the Guilford County Board of Elections. However, these DRE touch-screen machines, which use electronic ballot counting as opposed to paper tabulation, will be decertified by state law effective Dec. 1, he said. The law, adopted in 2013, aims to thwart cyber hackers who might have the skills to manipulate digital election results.

Full Article: With Guilford and Mecklenburg voting machines facing decertification, confusion looms for 2020 election | Local News | greensboro.com.

North Carolina: Laptops used in 2016 North Carolina poll to be examined by feds – after 2.5 years | Lisa Vaas/Naked Security

More than two and a half years after the fact, the Feds are finally going to investigate the failure of voter registration software – from a ­company that had been cyber-attacked by Russians just days before the November 2016 US presidential election – in the swing state of North Carolina. Politico has reviewed a document and spoken to somebody with knowledge of the episode, both of which suggest that the vendor, VR Systems, “inadvertently opened a potential pathway for hackers to tamper with voter records in North Carolina on the eve of the presidential election.” Specifically, VR Systems used remote-access software to connect for several hours to a central computer in Durham County so as to troubleshoot problems with the company’s voter registration software. In fact, election officials would come to find out that this was common practice, according to Politico’s source, in spite of the fact that election technology security experts agree that it opens up systems to hacking.

Full Article: Laptops used in 2016 NC poll to be examined by feds – after 2.5 years – Naked Security.

North Carolina: Is North Carolina rushing into major election changes? Some officials warn of confusion in 2020 | Will Doran/Charlotte Observer

Roughly a third of North Carolina voters use electronic machines with no paper ballots. But that might all change next year for the 2020 presidential election. Supporters of the change say it will help ensure election security, especially given reports from the FBI and other sources that the Russian government attempted to influence America’s 2016 elections and may have hacked into some U.S. voting software. But the switch has been held up for years, despite first being ordered in a 2013 law. Now, some officials — including the new state elections director — worry that there’s not enough time left to get new voting systems in place for the 2020 elections. The state’s biggest county, Mecklenburg, is one of the counties that will have to make the switch away from touchscreen voting machines. But officials there still don’t know what machines they might be allowed to buy as replacements, or how much they’ll cost. Meanwhile, the deadline to get new machines in place is coming up at the end of this year.

Full Article: Election hacking concerns spur NC changes, but is it too fast? | Charlotte Observer.

North Carolina: Federal Government To Check North Carolina Election Equipment Over Hacking Fears | Pam Fessler/NPR

The Department of Homeland Security has finally agreed to conduct a thorough inspection of election equipment used in North Carolina that was supplied by a vendor whose system was targeted by Russian hackers in 2016. It has been three years since the machines — laptops used to check in voters in Durham County — malfunctioned on Election Day, telling voters that they had already voted, even though they had not. The county took the laptops out of service that day and switched to using paper poll books, but what caused the problem has remained a mystery. It’s one of several remaining questions about what happened in the 2016 elections, the answers to which could help the U.S. protect itself against future cyberattacks. “This support may help to provide a better understanding of previous issues and help to secure the 2020 elections,” said Sara Sendek, a DHS spokesperson. She added that the agency “has no information that there is any previous or ongoing issues regarding elections systems” in the state.

Full Article: Federal Government To Check North Carolina Election Equipment Over Hacking Fears : NPR.

North Carolina: Software vendor may have opened a gap for hackers in 2016 swing state | Kim Zetter/Politico

A Florida election software company targeted by Russians in 2016 inadvertently opened a potential pathway for hackers to tamper with voter records in North Carolina on the eve of the presidential election, according to a document reviewed by POLITICO and a person with knowledge of the episode. VR Systems, based in Tallahassee but with customers in eight states, used what’s known as remote-access software to connect for several hours to a central computer in Durham County, N.C., to troubleshoot problems with the company’s voter list management tool, the person said. The software distributes voter lists to so-called electronic poll books, which poll workers use to check in voters and verify their eligibility to cast a ballot. The company did not respond to POLITICO’s requests for comment about its practices. But election security experts widely condemn remote connections to election-related computer systems — not only because they can open a door for intruders but because they can also give attackers access to an entire network, depending on how they’re configured.

Full Article: Software vendor may have opened a gap for hackers in 2016 swing state - POLITICO.

North Carolina: Karen Brinson Bell new North Carolina elections director, replaces Kim Strach | Will Doran/Raleigh News & Observer

Kim Strach, who has led the North Carolina Board of Elections since 2013, was dismissed by the board Monday. She will be replaced by Karen Brinson Bell. The vote was split along party lines, with the five-member elections board voting 3-2 in favor of replacing Strach with Brinson Bell. The board’s Democrats voted for Brinson Bell, while the board’s Republicans voted against her. “Our top priorities will be promoting voter confidence in elections and assisting the 100 county boards, the boots on the ground in every election,” Brinson Bell said in a written statement after the vote Monday. “I plan to roll up my sleeves and work with State Board staff to prepare for the important elections ahead.” She will start June 1.

Full Article: Karen Brinson Bell new NC elections director, replaces Kim Strach | Raleigh News & Observer.

North Carolina: State Board of Elections to oust executive director | WRAL

The new Democrat-controlled State Board of Elections will move to oust its longtime executive director, a Republican appointee, next week. Kim Strach, originally hired by the board former Gov. Pat McCrory appointed in 2013, has technically been on borrowed time since the new board formed in January. Soon after the board’s first meeting, state law gave members the authority to reappoint Strach or appoint a new director to a two-year term expiring in May 2021. That legislation was the result of a protracted court battle between Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican leaders in the General Assembly over appointments to the elections board. Democrats now outnumber Republicans on the board 3-2. It’s not yet clear whether the new executive director will replace Strach immediately or after some period of transition. Reached by phone Friday morning, State Board of Elections member David Black, a Republican, said the board planned to have a teleconference Monday to discuss Strach’s ouster. “The general move from the Democrats on the board is to replace her,” Black said.

Full Article: State Board of Elections to oust executive director :: WRAL.com.

North Carolina: Deferment on voting machines sought | Morganton News Herald

Things seem to be up in the air on new voting machines in Burke County, as well as other places in the state, that are required by state law. A resolution the Burke County Board of Elections passed earlier this month is asking the state General Assembly to delay requiring the voting machines used here to be decertified and new equipment to be purchased. Burke County currently uses touch-screen voting machines (direct-recording electronic voting machines) that have a paper trail. Current state law requires 22 counties, including Burke, to have their DRE voting systems decertified, which would force those counties to buy new voting equipment that use paper ballots. The law sets a deadline of Dec. 1, 2019, to decertify the type of voting equipment that Burke County uses, the resolution says. The local elections board resolution, dated April 9 and signed by all five Burke County elections board members, is requesting the state legislature vote to support deferring the decertification of its election voting machines until 2022. N.C. House Rep. Julia Howard, (R-District 77), introduced House Bill 851 on April 16 that would delay decertification until Dec. 1, 2021. The proposed bill was referred to the House committee on elections and ethics law on April 18. If it is approved in that committee, it will move to the rules, calendar and operations of the House. A similar bill — House Bill 502 — was introduced in the state House of Representatives on March 27 but it would only be for Alamance and Guilford counties. That local bill was referred on April 1 to the same committee as House Bill 851.

Full Article: Deferment on voting machines sought | News | morganton.com.

North Carolina: Board of Elections asking if North Carolina voting software company was hacked in 2016 | WSOC

The North Carolina State Board of Elections is asking a voting software company if it was hacked by Russian cyber attackers in 2016. The NCSBE wants to know if VR Systems is “Vendor 1” in the Mueller report. The report indicates that russian intelligence successfully “installed malware on the company network.” The letter from NCSBE asks VR Systems for “immediate, written assurance regarding the security” of its network. Nearly two dozen counties in the state used VR Systems in 2016, including Mecklenburg. “What we use it for on is the back end so that we can record provisional ballots, transfers, that sort of stuff that allows us to do it uniformly through 195 different precincts,” Mecklenburg County Board of Election Director Michael Dickerson said. VR Systems is based in Tallahassee and used to have an office in Matthews. Emails to the company were not returned.

Full Article: MUELLER REPORT NC VOTING COMPANY: Mueller Report: NCSBE asking if NC voting software company was hacked in 2016 | WSOC-TV.

North Carolina: Mueller report: Did Russian government hack 2016 North Carolina voting? | Raleigh News & Observer

The Mueller report released Thursday found that Russian spies successfully hacked into a U.S. voting software company during the 2016 elections, and North Carolina officials think there’s a chance it was software that’s in use here. The N.C. Board of Elections now has sent a letter to VR Systems, whose voting software was used by 21 North Carolina counties in 2016. The letter, which was first reported by WRAL, asks the company to “provide immediate, written insurance regarding the security of your network.” The Mueller report didn’t specifically name the company. But VR Systems confirmed in a written statement that it’s the company in question. The company’s software can’t be used to count or change votes. Instead, it manages the electronic polling books used to check in voters, to make sure people don’t vote twice. The Mueller report found that “Russian cyber actors in 2016 targeted” the company, and “installed malware on the company network.” Durham County, which had numerous problems and delays in the 2016 elections, was using the company’s check-in software at the time. The Mueller report does not go into the full extent of the hacking, and while it does say at least one Florida county was hacked, the report does not name any North Carolina successes for the hackers.

Full Article: Mueller report: Did Russian government hack 2016 NC voting? | Raleigh News & Observer.

North Carolina: In wake of Mueller report, North Carolina elections officials want answers from electronic pollbook vendor | WRAL

North Carolina elections officials want to know whether an unnamed voting technology company that Robert Mueller’s report says was compromised by Russian hackers is the same firm that supplies poll book software to more than a dozen counties across the state. In a letter to VR Systems sent Thursday afternoon, State Board of Elections General Counsel Josh Lawson asked the company to provide “immediate, written assurance” about the security of its products, which came under fire two years ago when a leaked intelligence report named the company as the target of a Russian hacking attempt known as “spearphishing.” Mueller’s report, released in a redacted form Thursday morning, notes that, in August 2016, Russian intelligence officers targeted a “voting technology company that developed software used by numerous U.S. counties to manage voter rolls,” installing malicious code on the company’s network. The name of the firm is blacked out due to “personal privacy” exemptions. Lawson said, based on the leaked intelligence report and a separate 2017 federal indictment, that VR Systems was a target of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency.

Full Article: In wake of Mueller report, NC elections officials want answers from electronic pollbook vendor :: WRAL.com.

North Carolina: Davidson County approves resolution regarding voting equipment | The Dispatch

On Tuesday, the Davidson County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted in favor of a resolution that asks the General Assembly to delay decertification of voting machines until the 2022 election. Davidson County uses direct record electronic voting machines that use electronic tabulation with a touch screen. A law passed in 2013 will decertify any system that doesn’t use paper ballots after Dec. 1. Jon Myers, chairman of the Davidson County Board of Elections, said the state prefers paper ballots because there are some who do not have confidence in the electronic voting system and that they would rather have individuals mark a ballot by hand. The county, along with 21 others, may have its voting machines decertified later this year. In the resolution, the Davidson County Board of Elections states that if its current equipment were decertified, the board would not have enough time for accurate testing, training and deployment in time for the elections in March 2020. “The legislation regarding the voting equipment requires that we test equipment before we can purchase,” Myers said. “So we would be required to test in the November municipal election before we can order. Even at best, there’s no way we could order before mid-November. … I think it’s a very difficult, if not impossible timeline to meet.”

Full Article: County approves resolution regarding voting equipment - News - The Dispatch - Lexington, NC.

North Carolina: Counties Face Tight Timeline To Comply With State Voting Law | WUNC

NCCounties across the state are working to beat a December deadline to replace touch-screen voting machines with models that use a paper ballot in order to comply with a 2013 state law. Twenty-five counties, including Mecklenburg, Guilford, Forsyth and Union, will need to upgrade all or some of their equipment. North Carolina State Board of Elections spokesperson Patrick Gannon said updating the equipment is important “to ensure that voters are confident that when they cast a ballot, that their choices are recorded properly and they can be audited on the back end if there are concerns about whether or not votes were counted properly.”  There is currently only one voting machine model that’s certified for use, but the State Board of Elections will meet soon to consider certifying additional models.  Gannon said counties making the switch need to test their equipment this fall ahead of the 2020 primary next March. “The counties must be able to test any new system in the municipal election in order for it to be used in an election next year,” he said.

Full Article: NC Counties Face Tight Timeline To Comply With State Voting Law | WUNC.

North Carolina: Legislators seek reprieve for Guilford County voting machines | Greensboro News and Record

Ask and ye shall receive — or at least get a reasonable shot at receiving. Two local legislators introduced a bill this week approving more than two years of additional life for Guilford County’s voting machines, only a week after county leaders formally petitioned the General Assembly for just such help. If passed, the bipartisan measure introduced by state Reps. Jon Hardister, R-Whitsett, and Amos Quick, D-Greensboro, would give county taxpayers a reprieve on the estimated $8 million cost of replacing the county’s 1,400-plus machines. The measure also would apply to Alamance County, which faces a similar dilemma and an estimated $2 million in replacement costs. Hardister said Friday afternoon that he filed the bill with Quick and fellow Reps. Dennis Riddell, R-Snow Camp, and Frank Iler, R-Oak Island, after a conversation with Guilford County Board of Elections Director Charlie Collicutt.

Full Article: Legislators seek reprieve for Guilford voting machines | Local News | greensboro.com.

North Carolina: Elections officials will give U.S. attorney vastly fewer records than he sought in voter probe | The Washington Post

Six months after a grand jury demanded millions of North Carolina voting records, state officials have announced they will release fewer than 800 voter files — a potentially significant setback for a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney who has targeted noncitizen voting as one of his top priorities. The state Board of Elections last week instructed 44 county election offices that received wide-ranging subpoenas for millions of voting records in August to hand over the files for only 289 voters. The state will turn over registration records for an additional 500 voters. It is unclear whether the vastly reduced volume of records is the result of a court order or an agreement between the board and U.S. Attorney Robert J. Higdon Jr., who sought the records in August, shortly after he announced the arrest of 19 noncitizens on charges that they had illegally voted in the 2016 presidential election.

Full Article: North Carolina elections officials will give U.S. attorney vastly fewer records than he sought in voter probe - The Washington Post.