GREENSBORO — Local elections officials say they believe they are in good shape to debut Guilford County’s new voting machines when early balloting starts in several weeks.
The Guilford County Board of Elections has received more than 400 pieces of equipment that rely on hand-marked ballots in place of the county’s previous touchscreen system, said Charlie Collicutt, the county’s director of elections.
“The old machines are gone and the new system is here,” Collicutt said Tuesday.
He said the new equipment includes 220 scanners that read ballots filled out by hand, 200 related units for people whose disabilities prevent them from using the standard equipment and two high-speed tabulators to tally votes.
Chris Duffey, the deputy elections director, told the county elections board at its meeting Tuesday afternoon that the staff worked extra hours last week to remove the old machines from their storage space in the Guilford County Courthouse to make room for the new.
They are unpacking the new equipment, checking it in and making sure it works, he said. Elections staff members will be fully trained in its use before it is deployed, Duffey added.
The county will have enough new machines to service 15 early-voting sites and all 165 of the county’s precincts during the March 3 primary, plus have several dozen in reserve for situations where extras or replacements might be needed, Duffey told the board.
The election board met Tuesday to hear the voting machine update and review 29 applications for absentee ballots from would-be voters unable to vote in person because of military service, temporary residence overseas and other reasons.
Chairman Horace “Jim” Kimel Jr. joined board members Eugene Lester and T. Anthony Spearman in unanimously approving 28 of those applications, including two where the applicants put their required signatures in the wrong spot.
They also unanimously rejected a 29th application that lacked the proper witness signatures. Board members Carolyn Bunker and Kathryn Lindley were absent.
On another matter Tuesday, Collicutt alerted board members that in line with changes pending at the State Board of Elections in Raleigh, they must soon develop local policies for responding to bad weather and other emergencies that force some or all precincts to close during early voting at times those polls otherwise would be open.
Early primary voting is scheduled to begin Feb. 13 at various locations throughout the county. It ends at 3 p.m. Feb. 29, the Saturday preceding the March 3 primary.
State legislators created the need for new voting equipment in Guilford and a number of other North Carolina counties by changing the law to require that voting machines use paper ballots. A final deadline was set for December 2019 to end any use of touchscreen machines like those Guilford has relied upon for years.
County election officials and the Guilford County Board of Commissioners decided late last year to spend about $2 million on the new equipment, which uses computerized readers to scan ballots marked by hand.