Homeland Security will investigate Durham polling equipment used in 2016 election

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will investigate the electronic pollbook software that caused problems in Durham County in 2016.

Election issues arose early during Election Day 2016 in Durham. Many of the machines used to check in voters told them that they had already voted. This forced many precincts to switch to paper pollbooks to check voters into the polls.

The electronic pollbook software was provided by VR Systems. That company said Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report identified it as a target of Russian hacking efforts.

VR Systems told the State Board of Elections its security was attacked but not compromised, according to ABC11 newsgathering partners at the News & Observer.

"If somebody had penetrated the company and the company software, then I suppose that could be a possibility and one that is way beyond the capability of the county to investigate," said Bill Brian, former chair of the Durham County Board of Elections. "I feel very comfortable that the people of the county were well served by the process and that their votes did in fact count."

Previous investigations from Durham and North Carolina officials found no evidence that Russian, or any other outside, interference played a role in the 2016 election day problems.

However, the current North Carolina State Board of Elections said it does not have the technical expertise to forensically examine the laptops to rule out external interference. For this reason, DHS will be sent the laptops to begin a thorough investigation.

"It's very easy for this stuff to go unnoticed and unaddressed because the federal government doesn't have the authority to go in and start investigating the state's elections system. The states have the authorities over elections. They're the ultimate authority and I don't think that should change but they need to be proactive if something looks anomalous and that didn't happen in North Carolina," said Susan Greenhalgh with the National Election Defense Coalition.

"We appreciate the Department of Homeland Security's willingness to make this a priority so the lingering questions from 2016 can be addressed in advance of 2020," said Karen Brinson Bell, the newly appointed executive director of the State Board of Elections.
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