RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A group of Republican state legislators said Thursday they want to investigate election machines in Durham County to verify they were not connected to the internet during last year’s election, a move the state’s top election official called a “stunt.”
Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina Board of Elections, noted that under state law voting machines cannot be connected to the internet to limit the risk of cyber interference, and they do not have modems.
She said local Republican and Democratic elected officials across the state have attested that their machines were not connected to the internet.
Rep. Jeff McNeely (R-Iredell), one of the members of the House Freedom Caucus, said the lawmakers could enlist the help of the General Assembly Police to examine the machines in Durham. He was holding a roll of red evidence tape.
“And, if there needs to be criminal charges, they will be filed also. So, we’re willing to work both ways. We pray that it is a very valid election and we will not find anything,” he said. “If we have to use, like I said, our escorts or the NCGA police, we will do whatever it takes to go about our mission.”
During a press conference Thursday, McNeely pulled Durham County’s name out of a hat, saying they wanted to choose a county at random.
Durham County just held local elections Tuesday, and the county’s election director said the lawmakers will not be allowed in to examine machines.
“No one will be permitted to inspect voting equipment in Durham County as per statute and direction from the Executive Director of the State Board of Elections,” elections director Derek Bowens wrote in an email.
Karen Brinson Bell said the state has undertaken testing, audits, and certifications of the 2020 election and found no evidence of widespread fraud.
“It’s hard for us to understand. It’s promoting conspiracy theories,” she said in an interview. “There are individuals from both sides of the aisle, including former President Trump, who have said there was no fraud to North Carolina’s elections.”
Former President Donald Trump issued a statement before he came to North Carolina in June saying, “North Carolina produced a big victory for us, without a fraudulent outcome.”
When CBS 17 asked the members of the Freedom Caucus if any of them believe Joe Biden is the duly elected president of the United States, Rep. Larry Pittman (R-Cabarrus) said no. Rep. Bobby Hanig (R-Currituck) said, “I don’t know.” McNeely said, “I hope he was.” Others present at Thursday’s press conference didn’t comment.
Though Trump won in North Carolina, the lawmakers said they were responding to concerns raised by constituents across the state.
“It doesn’t even make sense at this point. It’s really unfair that there’s this distrust being sown in our state,” said Karen Brinson Bell.
In a statement, she also said, “Unauthorized individuals who are not elections professionals have no authority to open and inspect voting equipment.”
During comments on the House floor Thursday morning following the press conference, Durham County Rep. Zack Hawkins (D) urged the Freedom Caucus not to go to his county.
“You are not welcome in Durham County. And, I’m not sure you want to step foot in Durham County and try to inspect the machines. You will not be greeted as liberators,” he said. “You are not welcome in Durham County. And, if you try, it may not work out for you well.”
General Assembly Police Chief Martin Brock did not respond to an email request for comment.