Onslow tests first new voting equipment in 16 years

New voting equipment that was tested at one precinct during Onslow County’s primary elections Tuesday may end up being a new standard.

The East Northwoods Precinct at Jacksonville Commons used new voting equipment in the form of a flash drive device made by Hart Intercivic was used instead of the ESNS card/chip device used by all precincts over the last 16 years.

“The machine has memory now with the flash drive that if in case it fails, the memory is there as a back up,” Onslow County Board of Elections Director Jason Dedmond previously told The Daily News. “The old machines just counted numbers but these count and scan the ballots. We’re very excited about it, it’s the first new equipment we’ve had in over 16 years.”

Dedmond said things ran “great” with the new equipment on Tuesday, with one small issue he anticipated would come up.

Due to the difference in equipment at the one precinct, Dedmond said they had to manually enter the ballots from the East Northwoods precinct.

“Since the other 23 precincts were using different equipment and formats, we knew we’d have to do that,” Dedmond said.

Dedmond said that wouldn’t be an issue if the county decided to buy the new equipment to use at all 24 precincts.

“I imagine the new equipment is a subject that will come up at our next board meeting on March 12, as to whether we want to look into purchasing it,” Dedmond said. “It’s something that has to pass through us at the Board of Elections and then get approval from the county commissioners.”

If the county was to purchase the Hart Intercivic equipment, Dedmond estimates the cost would be upward of $400,000.

That alone would be $342,000 just for those two items before any other expenses. Information on what the additional $58,000 would be used for was not immediately available. Dedmond suggested speaking with Hart for a full cost breakdown and calls for comment were not returned by deadline.

During the primary election, a vast amount of eligible voters seemed to stay home Tuesday as the N.C. State Board of Elections website listed 24,425 people casting ballots in Onslow County out of 106,600 registered voters, or or 22.91%.

Those numbers are lower than the last presidential election primary in 2016, even though there are more than 9,000 additional registered voters this year. According to the N.C. BOE there were 26,644 ballots cast out of 97,415 registered voters, a total of 27.35%.

However, the 2020 numbers won’t be certified until the vote canvass on March 13. Dedmond explained that ensures all ballots, including absentees and provisionals, are counted accurately before reaching a finalized number for official results, essentially so no one’s vote is left out.

Some good news, however, is Dedmond said if the county did choose to buy the Hart Intercivic equipment, they would “certainly be able to have it ready by November’s general election.”


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