Replacing South Carolina’s aging voting system

Replacing South Carolina's aging voting system
Replacing South Carolina's aging voting system
Updated: Jan. 14, 2019 at 8:22 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Dr. Duncan Buell believes the voting system in South Carolina needs to be changed.

Dr. Buell recently looked into data from the primaries and general election in 2018 for a League of Women Voters of South Carolina report. “We have an extremely complicated system,” he said.

Dr. Buell said there were instances where votes were miscounted or counted twice. He said most of the problems come from the election system itself.

“The system doesn’t have enough built into it,” he said.

South Carolina is one of five states in the country using a Direct Record Electronic (DRE) system. The state has been using iVotronic machines since about 2004. Lawmakers, the State Election Commission (SEC), and Dr. Buell said its time for a change. The fact there is no paper trail is the main cause for concern.

“The votes should be cast as intended and counted as cast. In an all-electronic system, we have no way of determining if the votes have been cast as intended,” Dr. Buell said.

The SEC said all problems uncovered in the report resulted from human error in the preparation or use of the voting system. It wasn’t always necessarily the software.

Election officials agree the system needs to be changed. Chris Whitmire with the SEC said they want a paper trail, “A paper record of a voters voted ballot. That the voter looks, verifies their selections before that paper ballot is counted. That ballot put into a scanner.”

They said having a paper record of each voter’s voted ballot will add an important layer of security as it allows post-election audits of allots to verify vote totals.

The SEC is requesting $60 million for a new voting system.

They want to have all vendor proposals in by March and to have a new system selected by the summer. The SEC said the State Fiscal Accountability Authority (SFAA) will oversee the proposal evaluation process. Proposals will be evaluated by a committee of state and county election officials.

Voting systems must be certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. According to a Request for Proposals (RFP) submitted in December by the SEC, the certified systems include both those using hand-marked paper ballots and those that produce paper ballots using a ballot-marking device.

There are companion bills in the Senate and House seeking new voting machines for the state. The bills are requesting electronic voting machines that produce a paper audit trail.

If you’d like to read the League of Women Voters of South Carolina report, click here.

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