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State committee to examine electronic voting expanded

10:10 PM EST on Friday, November 19, 2004

Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. ? Legislative leaders created a special committee Friday to examine electronic voting machines in an effort to ensure that all votes cast in future elections are counted properly.

The 13-member Joint Select Committee on Electronic Voting Systems replaces a smaller study commission that had been authorized in July but had never met.

Interest has grown in the subject after Carteret County lost more than 4,400 ballots from a touch-screen voting network that failed to record them after it exceeded its storage capacity.

The lost ballots are the focus of protests filed by candidates for state agriculture commissioner and superintendent of public instruction. Republican commissioner candidate Steve Troxler leads Democrat Britt Cobb by 2,287 votes ? less than the total of lost votes.

Sens. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, and Austin Allran, R-Catawba; Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, and Susan Adams with the Moore County Board of Elections will lead the committee.

The other panelists were appointed by Senate leader Marc Basnight, D-Dare, and House Co-Speakers Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg, and Richard Morgan, R-Moore.

Committee members include Gary Bartlett, executive director of the state Board of Elections; David Allen, an advocate for paper voting records for ballots cast by electronic voting systems, and Rep. Jean Preston, R-Carteret. Preston was among the voters whose ballots weren't recorded by Carteret's touch-screen machines.

The date of the first committee meeting has not been announced.

The panel can make recommendations to the General Assembly before it convenes in late January, with a final report to be issued by the spring of 2006.

Meanwhile, Cobb has filed another protest in Cleveland County after learning that 120 ballots counted on Election Day were destroyed before the recount. A cleaning crew at a fire station used for polling apparently threw away an envelope containing the ballots.

Cobb filed the protest Thursday because the lost votes may throw into doubt the outcome of his election with Troxler.

The State Board of Elections is scheduled to meet Tuesday to make final the election results of the races that aren't being protested.

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