Judge won't block use of polling site software

Posted November 6, 2017 4:49 p.m. EST
Updated November 6, 2017 7:12 p.m. EST

— A Superior Court judge said Monday that he lacks the authority to prevent counties from using a software program to check in voters at polling sites Tuesday, despite the concerns of state elections officials.

The State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement had enough questions about the functionality and security of the EViD software that they determined it shouldn't be used in this year's municipal elections.

Durham County had problems checking in voters last year, when it used EViD, and Florida-based VR Systems, which produces the software, was reportedly a target of Russian hackers in the 2016 election.

"This particular version of VR software has never been tested for any election in north Carolina," said Patrick Gannon, a spokesman for the state elections board.

VR Systems challenged the state's position in court, and an administrative law judge ruled Friday that EViD was properly certified and could be used this week.

The state board appealed that decision, but Judge Paul Ridgeway ruled Monday that state law prevents him from overturning a restraining order by an administrative law judge. He said he can intercede only when a final agency decision prompts an appeal.

Twenty-one counties used EViD last year, but state officials said it's unclear how many plan to use it this year. Many of those 21 were in central North Carolina: Cumberland, Durham, Edgecombe, Franklin, Granville, Halifax, Johnston, Nash, Sampson, Vance, Warren and Wilson.

Durham County plans to use another system this year, officials said. Wake County has never used electronic systems to check in voters at the polls.

"Counties who are our clients are welcome to use it, and I think there are plans from some of those counties. I don't know which ones specifically," said Michael Weisel, an attorney for VR Systems.

"VR Systems' entire business plan is to make voting easier," Weisel said, "to make it easier for poll workers to check people in."

State officials said they plan to appeal Ridgeway's ruling to the Court of Appeals, seeking an emergency stay.

"We just want to make sure that we protect the security and integrity of the elections tomorrow, and that is why we, at this late hour, are in the process of filing an appeal," Gannon said.