Stanly County moves towards adopting new voting equipment

ALBEMARLE — At the March 15 meeting of the Stanly County Board of Commissioners, the county’s board of elections director, Kim Blackwelder, briefed the commissioners on plans to move forward with new voting equipment.  

Blackwelder said that at the Stanly County Board of Elections meeting on March 2, they approved a resolution to approve the new equipment.  

“This is the preliminary recommendation from the board, to acquire the voting system EVS,” Blackwelder said.  

“And that’s not Dominion equipment, is it?” board Chair Bill Lawhon joked at the end of her presentation, referring to the company that was at the center of many theories on election fraud during the 2020 election.  

Stanly County currently uses the Unity voting system, which is compatible with a DS200 precinct scanner and the AutoMARK ballot marker. The new recommended system, EVS, also is compatible with these two elements. The reason for the change, according to the presentation, is that it will allow them to add a DS450 high-speed central counter, which can be used for recounts, as well as for mail-in and provisional ballots.  

This new system will also allow Stanly County to update its AutoMARK ballot marker, which has been in use for 15 years, with an ExpressVote ballot marker. A pilot test for this change is scheduled for the 2022 primary elections.  

“Acquiring this system is basically a software upgrade,” Blackwelder said. “It doesn’t require any new hardware, so we’re looking at a total cost of $3,694, and that’s to update the computer system that the software runs on.” 

In order to make this change in compliance with North Carolina election laws, the Stanly County Board of Elections needs to go through five steps. The first step was to witness a demonstration of at least two voting systems, which was completed at the March 2 meeting. The second step is to make a preliminary recommendation to the county commissioners, which Blackwelder did at the March 15 meeting.  

After Monday’s presentation, the board of elections will now have to run a test of the equipment, either in a real or a simulated election. They chose to do the test at a simulated election, which is scheduled for April 6. 

“The voting equipment company will come in, and we will test the new system on the equipment and make sure that we’re satisfied with that,” Blackwelder said. 

Then, if they are satisfied, the fourth step is to have the equipment plan approved by the N.C. State Board of Elections, and the fifth step is to have the plan given final approval by county commission. This final approval is planned for the Stanly County Board of Commissioners meeting to be held on April 19.