COVID-19 Special Coverage
North Carolina voting rights advocates challenge electronic system implemented by several counties
© WikiMedia (Tom Arthur)
North Carolina voting rights advocates challenge electronic system implemented by several counties

Voting rights advocates filed a lawsuit in North Carolina’s Wake County Superior Court on Wednesday, challenging the implementation of the ExpressVote electronic voting machines in Mecklenburg County and several other counties.

The ExpressVote machine has a touchscreen interface or movable keypad for voters to select their choice. Voters have to insert a piece of blank thermal paper to activate the machine. After the voter completes their selections, the machine prints a ballot summary card onto the blank thermal paper.

This summary card displays a readable version of the voter’s choices, as well as a barcode that is supposed to correspond with the voter’s choices. The barcode can only be read by machines, and this is the portion that is scanned to record votes.

The complaint alleges that the voting machines are “insecure, unreliable, and unverifiable,” and that they create the risk that voters “will have their votes rendered meaningless or… cast for the wrong candidate.” Because the barcode is not readable by voters, voters cannot verify that barcode contents match their choices.

The complaint also alleges that ExpressVote denies some voters the right to equal protection. It asserts that states “must implement safeguards that secure the accuracy of the ballots cast” to ensure voting accuracy and to protect voters’ constitutional rights. It additionally asserts that the use of ExpressVote is “particularly perilous” during the COVID-19 pandemic, because COVID-19 can be spread through contact with the touchscreen.

The plaintiffs seek a judgment that the use of ExpressVote is unconstitutional, as well as an injunction prohibiting its use during elections.