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Watauga Board of Elections’ Statement on Modems in Ballot-Counting Machines

It has recently come to the attention of the Watauga County Board of Elections that modems were removed from ballot-counting machines used by the Board in county elections. Before being removed, these modems had never been used. Given the importance of a fair and transparent election process, the Board wishes, with this press release, to make relevant information promptly available to the public.

Since 2002, the Board has used M100 ballot scanners to count ballots. The Board voted unanimously to purchase this equipment. The scanners were purchased from Printelect, a North Carolina company.

The Board owns 31 M100 ballot scanners. They have been used in every election since their initial purchase.

On November 9, 2021, Karen Brinson Bell, the Executive Director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, hosted a Microsoft Teams meeting with election staff from the six counties that still use M100 ballot scanners. In addition to Watauga, these counties include Graham, Macon, Moore, Montgomery, and Swain. Director Bell informed them that Printelect would be undertaking annual preventative maintenance and would remove any modems found in the machines.

This was the first time that Watauga Director of Elections Matthew Snyder was apprised of the presence of modems in the M100 ballot scanners.

On November 16, 2021, Printelect technicians came to Watauga County and removed 29 modems from the M100 ballot scanners.

Director Snyder informed Board members from both parties of these developments.

The Board emphasizes that the modems on the M100 ballot scanners have never been used during the tenure of current Board members or current Board staff. Using them would not only require that they be connected to the internet but would also require software that is not in the Board’s possession. Moreover, modem technology is currently largely outdated. Like current Board staff, current Board members were previously unaware of the presence of modems in the M100 ballot scanners.

The Board further emphasizes that the M100 ballot scanners are kept in secure locations. Activation of M100 ballot scanners and most interactions with them typically occur in the presence and under the scrutiny of bipartisan teams.

The Board appreciates the transparency and forthrightness with which Director Snyder has handled this matter.

As we enter a new election cycle, the Board remains as committed as ever to a fair and transparent election process.

The Watauga County Board of Elections

Michael Behrent (chair)

Eric Eller

James Hill

Matthew Walpole

Marv Williamson