South Carolina’s electronic voting machines do not produce hard copies of votes, and it would cost taxpayers $17.3 million to add that capability to the state’s existing machines, according to a report by the Legislative Audit Council. “The audit process in South Carolina is limited by the absence of a voter verifiable paper audit trail,” the report said. The report notes that “without paper ballots, the reconstruction of the votes cast is not possible.” But the report does not give a recommendation on whether the state should update its electronic voting machines to produce a hard copy of votes. The report notes the paper ballots “undermines the voting access of people with disabilities” and that hand counting ballots always introduces the possibility of “human error.”
“If (paper) ballots are unable to be easily counted without error, it is not fulfilling its role as a reliable audit system,” the report said. “It is unclear if the cost of adding on (paper ballots) provides the intended return on cost through enhanced security.”
Earlier this month, the state House of Representatives approved a $22.7 billion spending plan that includes $5 million to put toward new electronic voting machines. The budget includes a proviso — a law that expires after one year — that says the election commission will save the money “until such time as a new voting system with a verifiable paper trail is necessary and is available for purchase.”
But as the Legislative Audit Council report notes, state law says the State Election Commission cannot buy new voting machines until the U.S. election assistance Commission “approves new voting standards and vendors begin manufacturing new voting systems according to those standards.” It’s unclear when any of that will happen or how much the new machines would cost once they are available.