South Carolina upgrades to new paper-based voting system

For the first time in 15 years, the state of South Carolina is getting a new voting system.

“This is an exciting day for the future of elections in South Carolina,” said Marci Andino, Executive Director of the State Election Commission (SEC). “This system will not only provide voters with a dependable system for years to come, but it will also greatly enhance the security and resilience of our election process.”

After a six-month procurement process, an evaluation panel unanimously selected the Election Systems and Software (ES&S) ExpressVote voting system, officials said.

The process was overseen by the S.C. Department of Administration and the State Fiscal Accountability Authority. An evaluation panel made up of the five members of the SEC considered a total of seven proposals including both hand-marked and ballot-marking systems from three voting system providers.

Andino served on ES&S’s advisory board in the past, but the SEC says she did not play a role in selecting the system. Andino did partake in contract negotiations after the evaluation panel made their selection. Chris Whitmire, a spokesperson for the SEC, said, “It was a very open process where you had several vendors and many different proposals. Five members who were hearing from all of the experts and in the end they were unanimous in their decision.”

The system is made up of a paper ballot, ballot marking device and a scanner.

Whitmire said the new system will give voters peace of mind their votes are being counted correctly. “Voters are going to get a paper ballot and they’ll verify their selections on the ballot. They’ll put it in a scanner. The scanner is going to tabulate it and we’re going to know who won the election by the end of the night.”

Election officials said the paper ballots are saved in a locked ballot box after they are scanned so they can be audited. Images are taken of the ballots and will be posted online for anyone to recount an election, according to the SEC.

Whitmire said the ballot marking device prevents overvoting, stray and improper marks on paper ballots. He also said the ballot marking device can be used by every South Carolinian – it is an accessible terminal.

According to the SEC, implementing the new system will cost about $51 million. Lawmakers set aside $40 million for a new system in this upcoming year’s budget. Whitmire said they have the funds to cover the difference. “We have funds to cover that. They were already earmarked for voting system replacement. Some of them state funds and some of them federal funds.”

The new system will be in place statewide by January 1, 2020.

Copyright 2019 WIS. All rights reserved.

Photo: Getty Images

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