Local News

Major Voting Changes Under Way In North Carolina

Posted October 5, 2005

— When the race for the N.C. Agriculture Commissioner last November was too close to call, Carteret County took a lot of the heat.

In Carteret County, more than 4,500 votes were lost in an electronic-voting machine mix-up that was part human and part technical error.

"It was embarrassing really," Tina Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez was one of the voters whose vote was lost.

"Personally, for me, it was devastating," she said, adding she was actively involved in campaigning and excited about the election.

No one in Carteret County wants that kind of attention again, so the county opted to use paper ballots this year and to keep the electronic-voting machines in a storage closet.

"I think the Board (of Elections) felt that this was the best thing to do even if it was just temporary," said Lindy Lewis, director of the Carteret County Board of Elections. "We need to get through October and November, and then we'll see what happens then."

Carteret County isn't the only county making a change.

The General Assembly passed a voting reform bill that has the State Board of Elections shopping around for equipment and manufacturers that meet the new standards. A list of choices will be available for counties to choose from early next year.

"It's a complete overhaul," Gary Bartlett, director of the State Board of Elections, said. "We could be getting rid of as much as 90 percent of our equipment across the state."

Only three voting forms will now be acceptable. These include paper ballots, electronic voting and optical scan.

About $46 million in grant money will be divided among counties to help pay for the upgrades.

Bartlett said it's a needed change, adding that much of the equipment is out-of-date and unreliable.

Rodriguez said she is still upset about losing her vote. But in a small way, she said, she can be happy about it.

"If that's my donation for making sure things are better in the long run, then I suppose it would've been worth it," she said.

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