Returning to paper ballots may be the solution for eliminating lines and ensuring all votes are counted correctly, a group of South Carolina legislators said Tuesday. While there’s wide support in the Legislature for replacing South Carolina’s 13,000 antiquated voting machines before the 2020 elections, what the next system should look like is up for debate. State election officials are seeking $60 million in the upcoming budget for a new system with a paper component for auditing. The touchscreen machines South Carolina voters have used since 2004 provide no paper record. “It’s shocking to me we have no paper trail,” said Rep. Beth Bernstein, D-Columbia. She was among several legislators Tuesday who said paper printouts won’t suffice. They advocate going old school with paper ballots. “We don’t want a machine auditing a machine,” said Sen. Thomas McElveen, D-Sumter. “We want something tangible.”
State election officials plan to request bids for a new system next year, as long as the Legislature puts the replacement money in the state budget. The request would include requirements for a paper trail.
But legislators may get more directly involved by telling the agency precisely what type of system to buy.
Rep. Kirkman Finlay, R-Columbia, contends the Legislature shouldn’t give the agency a $60 million blank check when paper-based options could cost far less.
The system could involve paper ballots being fed into scanners to tally the results. That allows for a check of the actual ballot cast if there are any discrepancies or a recount is necessary. And voting won’t be limited by the number of working machines at a precinct, he said.