The debate over what type of new voting machines South Carolina should purchase may be vexing lawmakers in the Statehouse, but many county election officials have reached one consensus: the state needs new polling equipment and soon. The 15-year-old computers that roughly 3.1 million registered voters currently use are costing tens of thousands of dollars to maintain, a burden that falls onto the state’s 46 counties. And at least a few local election directors worry the aging equipment could result in longer lines at polling places if the Legislature doesn’t find the money for a new statewide system this year. Parts for the current computerized voting system somtimes have to be recycled from other machines, they pointed out. And even if a few machines go down, it could take longer for South Carolinians to cast their votes at precincts, especially in a presidential election year like 2020.
“We can do it, but we will likely have less machines out there,” said Conway Belangia, Greenville County’s election director, who handles 10 percent of the state’s registered voters.
Election directors from some of the state’s largest counties said they were hopeful before the legislative session started that lawmakers would finally find the money to replace the roughly 13,000 computers statewide. But as the year drags on, they worry the Legislature is being bombarded with other demands for where that money could be spent.
“Some legislators don’t realize that we need it now,” said David Alford, Florence County’s election director. “We’ve been beating the drum on this.”