When I cast my first ballot, I voted on a paper ballot for Daniel R. McLeod, who was elected attorney general and served for the next 24 years. At that time, voting machines in South Carolina were limited to several urban counties. As I recall, election security consisted of a padlocked plywood ballot box, the key to which was attached to a modest chain connected to the padlock. I did not give much thought to the mechanics of elections, or how the poll managers tabulated the election results from the paper ballots cast. Though no election is perfectly conducted, most of us engage in faith-based voting, meaning that we as voters have faith that, for the most part, our election procedures work properly. We have faith that when we cast our ballots, our votes are recorded as intended. Sometimes, we must stop to examine that faith. Recently, I viewed a documentary film titled “I Voted?” by filmmaker Jason Grant Smith. His film opened my eyes to our systemic voting challenges.
After the failure of the 2000 election in Florida, Congress allocated $3.5 billion to the states to upgrade election equipment. South Carolina moved quickly and spent $34.5 million on our current iVotronic touchscreens. And our election security has been a troubling topic ever since, because of the inability of our state’s voting machines to produce a voter-marked paper ballot, which can generate a voter-verified paper audit trail to allow recounts and random audits of election results.
In March of 2013, our state’s Legislative Audit Council determined that the iVotronic voting machines “do not allow voters to verify their votes by paper or produce an auditable paper trail as does a voter verified paper audit trail system.” The Legislative Audit Council also found that “Problems with iVotronic machines that have been reported in elections in other states include vote flipping, candidates missing from screens, lost votes or too many votes, freezing, and batteries.”
South Carolina’s flawed and obsolete voting computers produce no paper trail, which makes any meaningful audit or recount an impossibility. Most likely, you are not using the same computer you had in 2004; however, you are voting on antiquated equipment, purchased before the first generation of the iPhone.