South Carolina

Articles about voting issues in South Carolina.

South Carolina: State preparing for switch to paper ballot voting | Adam Benson/Index Journal

Local election officials say a new paper ballot-based system will give voters more control over their choices by introducing a layer of redundancy not available in more than a decade. On Monday, the state Election Commission said Omaha, Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software was granted a $51 million contract to swap out 13,000 touchscreen machines, in circulation since 2004, with units that include a BMD, or “ballot-marking device” to verify selections on a paper ballot after using the electronic interface to initially pick a candidate. “Our job was to find the best system out there for the voters of South Carolina,” commission chairman John Wells said in a release. “We were looking for a system that is secure, accurate, accessible, auditable, transparent, reliable and easy for poll managers and voters to use.”

Full Article: State preparing for switch to paper ballot voting | News | indexjournal.com.

South Carolina: Company that courted South Carolina elections chief wins $51M bid for new voting machines | Tom Barton/The State

South Carolina voters will get a paper printout of their completed ballots starting next year, when the state puts in place some 13,500 new voting machines. State officials on Monday announced that a $51 million contract had been awarded to Election Systems and Software, the nation’s largest voting equipment vendor, to provide the new voting machines which promise more security in producing a paper ballot. ES&S has a lengthy history with South Carolina. The company provided the state’s existing voting system, in place since 2004. The paperless system has drawn increasing scrutiny, raising questions about accuracy of counting votes and whether the system is vulnerable to hacking. The company also has ties to elections officials in South Carolina and other states, an investigation by McClatchy and The State revealed. Marci Andino, executive director for the S.C. State Election Commission, formerly served on an advisory panel to the company, which treated her and elections officials from other states to trips to Las Vegas and elsewhere. Andino said she ran her trips by state ethics officials and has stepped down from the advisory role with ES&S prior to the state’s efforts to procure a new voting system.

Full Article: South Carolina unveils new paper-based voting system | The State.

South Carolina: State chooses new voting machines that will print paper ballots but some fear it’s not safe | Mike Fitts/Post and Courier

Beginning with the presidential primary next year, South Carolina voters will mark their choices on paper ballots by touching digital screens under a new $51 million voting system announced Monday by the state Election Commission — a choice criticized by a civic group that advocates for safe balloting. Under the system made by Election Systems & Software, voters will put their paper ballot into a touchscreen system and choose their candidates. They print out a completed ballot to review their selections and then put the ballot into a scanner to formally record their votes. The paper ballots will be kept in a locked box where can be used to verify results. Using this system of more than 13,000 new machines should produce a verifiable paper trail while also avoiding the issues of stray or misleading ballot marks from written ballots, said John Wells, chairman of the State Election Commission. “There can be no question as to the accuracy of the election,” he said. The League of Women Voters of South Carolina, however, was disappointed in the choice. The group sees this system as overly elaborate and possibly vulnerable to hacking or other mischief, especially when compared with a simple paper ballot.

Full Article: SC chooses new voting machines that will print paper ballots but some fear it's not safe | News | postandcourier.com.

South Carolina: Tony Shaffer: New Report Highlights Urgent Need to Replace South Carolina Voting System | FITSNews

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have confirmed that Russian hackers targeted all 50 states during the 2016 elections – not just the 21 states previously reported. This new information highlights the urgent need to replace South Carolina’s old, vulnerable digital touchscreen “DRE” voting machines. As a cyber operations expert with nearly forty years of national security experience, I feel the need to speak up: It’s critical to deter and mitigate these threats before the 2020 elections. South Carolina is moving in the right direction. The legislature has appropriated $40 million for a new voting system and, to ensure a smooth procurement process, given responsibility for procuring the system to the S.C. Department of Administration (SCDOA). As the department examines the available systems, it should carefully consider the efficiency, cost, and security of each system. It should also avoid the mistakes made in Georgia, where the legislature fast-tracked a bill requiring a $150 million voting system comprised of ballot-marking devices (BMDs) without considering a more secure, lower-cost system of hand-marked paper ballots. BMDs, which require voters to select their preferred candidates using a touchscreen, may be more high-tech than paper ballots but are by no means higher quality. BMDs contain vulnerable computer systems that can be hacked to change ballots after they are cast. Although BMDs print a paper record of votes cast, they often do so in barcode format, making it impossible for voters to ensure that their vote will ultimately be recorded accurately. And like any machine, BMDs are susceptible to technical glitches and power outages, increasing chances that voters will be forced to wait in long lines on election day.

Full Article: Tony Shaffer: New Report Highlights Urgent Need to Replace SC Voting System – FITSNews.

South Carolina: Gov. McMaster removes elections board in Richland County that missed 1,040 votes | Post and Courier

Gov. Henry McMaster stepped in Thursday and punted all four members of the Richland County Elections Board after 1,040 votes were not counted in the fall, the county’s fourth major elections blunder in eight years. State law says the governor can remove county elections board members for “incapacity, misconduct or neglect of duty.” “South Carolinians’ confidence in the lawful and professional oversight of elections must never be jeopardized,” McMaster said after issuing an executive order. “The repeated actions and behavior of these officials are wholly unacceptable and cannot be tolerated,” his message continued. “To regain and maintain Richland County voters’ confidence at the ballot box, the entire board must be replaced with new leadership.”

Full Article: Gov. McMaster removes elections board in SC's capital county that missed 1,040 votes | Palmetto Politics | postandcourier.com.

South Carolina: State needs new voting machines before 2020, election officials say | Post and Courier

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.   

Full Article: SC needs new voting machines before 2020, election officials say | News | postandcourier.com.

South Carolina: Judge dismisses lawsuit claiming South Carolina’s voting machines endanger voter rights | The Hill

A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit claiming that South Carolina’s antiquated voting machines infringed upon residents’ right to vote. U.S. District Court Judge Michelle Childs said the machines could impose “some conceivable risk” to the state’s ability to accurately count votes, but the suit did not prove there was a “substantial” threat to the right to vote, The State reported. “A plaintiff…must do more than merely assert that there is some conceivable risk that she will be harmed on account of defendant’s actions,” wrote Childs, who is an appointee of former President Obama.

Full Article: Judge dismisses lawsuit claiming South Carolina's voting machines endanger voter rights | TheHill.

South Carolina: Richland County failed to count hundreds of November election ballots | Post and Courier

Ballots cast by 1,040 Richland County voters were not counted in last November’s election — another voting mishap in the state’s capital county. While the missing ballots did not affect the outcome of any races and accounted for less than 1 percent of the 142,805 votes cast in the county, the failure to count all votes damages public trust, experts said. “It’s sends a very bad message that people cast a vote, and it might not matter,” Duncan Buell, a University of South Carolina professor who researches voting machines, said Thursday. “This is a big deal.” Richland County missed 832 in-person absentee votes from two voting machines that malfunctioned and 208 votes from two machines at two precincts that were closed incorrectly, Richland County Elections Director Rokey Suleman said.

Full Article: SC's capital county failed to count hundreds of November election ballots | Palmetto Politics | postandcourier.com.

South Carolina: Election director’s ties to voting company creates ‘conflict’ concerns | Post and Courier

The relationship between South Carolina’s director of elections and the country’s largest voting equipment company has caught the attention of lawmakers as the state prepares to spend a proposed $60 million to replace  13,000 voting machines. For more than a decade, Marci Andino, executive director of the S.C. Election Commission, served on an advisory board formed by Elections Systems and Software, known commonly as ES&S. Andino received more than $19,000 worth of flights, hotels and meals from ES&S since 2009 to attend regular conferences at the company’s headquarters in Nebraska and other cities across the country, according to records with the South Carolina Ethics Commission. Andino was offered a spot on that private panel in 2005, according to other documents provided to The Post and Courier. It was a year after ES&S won a contract to supply new voting equipment to the Palmetto State and two years after Andino became executive director of the election commission.

Full Article: SC election director's ties to voting company creates 'conflict' concerns | News | postandcourier.com.

South Carolina: Federal judge could intervene in decision to buy voting machines | The State

A federal judge will decide whether to toss out a lawsuit asking for federal oversight of South Carolina’s purchase of new voting machines, at a cost of up to $60 million. After a nearly two-hour hearing in Columbia, U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs said she would make a decision within 10 days. Childs could dismiss the lawsuit, which asks for a court order requiring the S.C. Election Commission to buy new, high-security voting machines. Or she could let the suit proceed. During Tuesday’s hearing, S.C. Assistant Attorney General Wesley Vorberger, representing the S.C. Election Commission, told Childs the lawsuit is unnecessary. The Election Commission, he said, already is seeking bids for new hacker-resistant voting machines for use in the 2020 election.

Full Article: Federal judge could intervene in SC’s decision to buy voting machines.

South Carolina: Activists want ‘unhackable’ paper-ballot voting system | The State

Activists are pushing for South Carolina to adopt a paper-ballot election system. Several called for the change at the S.C. State House Wednesday, a day after the state Election Commission requested $60 million from the Legislature to buy new voting machines. “Our central mission is to make government work,” said Holley Ulbrich, president of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina, “so we have to make sure we have a voting system with optically scanned paper ballots that is faster, easier and unhackable.” A paper system would replace the current touchscreen-only voting machines that South Carolina has used since 2004. Those machines have been criticized as error prone and vulnerable to hacking. “These machines are older than the iPhone,” said ACLU of S.C. director Shaundra Young Scott. “We want to show citizens can trust the system, and that South Carolina is a progressive state.”

Full Article: SC activists want ‘unhackable’ paper-ballot voting system | The State.

South Carolina: Election officials ask for change to paper ballots in 2020 | The State

S.C. election officials took a small step Tuesday toward changing the way the state votes in 2020. The S.C. Election Commission requested $60 million Tuesday from legislators to buy a new voting system in time for the next statewide election, a system that — for the first time in a decade — would produce a paper trail of ballots cast. The Election Commission has requested money for new voting machines before and been denied. However, this request comes in a favorable budget year amid national concern around election security. State lawmakers have said they want to make a switch to paper-trail ballots in time for the 2020 election, using money from $1 billion in added state revenues. But there will be hurdles to overcome. Gov. Henry McMaster unveiled his budget proposal Tuesday and included only $5 million for new voting machines.

Full Article: SC election officials ask for change to paper ballots in 2020 | The State.

South Carolina: Replacing South Carolina’s aging voting system | WMBF

Dr. Duncan Buell believes the voting system in South Carolina needs to be changed. Dr. Buell recently looked into data from the primaries and general election in 2018 for a League of Women Voters of South Carolina report. “We have an extremely complicated system,” he said. Dr. Buell said there were instances where votes were miscounted or counted twice. He said most of the problems come from the election system itself. “The system doesn’t have enough built into it,” he said.

Full Article: Replacing South Carolina’s aging voting system.

South Carolina: How often do South Carolina’s voting machines mess up? New election report details count problems | The State

In the last election, some votes in South Carolina got counted twice. Others were credited to the wrong candidate. Also, one observer thinks, the state’s 14-year-old voting machines are starting to show their age, producing other errors. Those are some of the conclusions in a report released last week by the League of Women Voters of South Carolina. On Jan. 22, the league will host a public forum at the Richland County Public Library on ways to improve the state’s election system. The group is backing efforts in the S.C. Legislature to require a paper ballot system. “Over the years, they’ve made upgrades, and it’s still flawed,” Lynn Teague, vice president of the league, said of the state’s existing voting system. “They’re still counting votes wrong … and all this without someone deliberately trying to mess with the system.”

Full Article: SC voting machine problems detailed in 2018 election report | The State.

South Carolina: ES&S iVotronic voting machines miscounted hundreds of ballots, report finds | StateScoop

An analysis of South Carolina’s voting equipment found that state election officials miscounted hundreds of ballots during the primary and general elections in 2018 because of “continued software deficiencies.” Conducted on behalf of the League of Women Voters by Duane Buell, a computer science professor at the University of South Carolina, the study published last week found that in one primary race, voting machines in one precinct double counted 148 votes. During the general election in another precinct, more than 400 votes were awarded in the wrong county board race. In both instances, Buell found, the improperly counted voters were logged by the South Carolina State Election Commission as official results. Neither case involved enough votes to swing the outcome of an election, but Buell told StateScoop the incidents demonstrate the state continues to use poorly designed software that poll workers, many of whom are volunteers working long shifts, struggle to operate correctly.

Full Article: South Carolina voting machines miscounted hundreds of ballots, report finds.

South Carolina: Wrong Votes and System Failures Mar South Carolina Elections, Report Finds | WhoWhatWhy

South Carolina miscounted hundreds of votes in the 2018 primary and midterm elections, according to a new report by the League of Women Voters state chapter. The errors cast doubt on the quality of programming in the election computers, on the functionality of the old hardware, and on the state’s current election infrastructure itself. (Neither political party was favored by these problems.) The state even upgraded the software on its voting machines before these elections, yet failed to fix basic problems. “These are old machines, the software quality is questionable, there are bugs that contributed to the votes being counted wrong, and we need to find a new system,” Duncan Buell, the report’s author, told WhoWhatWhy. “I think the next step is to stop using them and going to something else. Given that known bugs in the software were not fixed in the revision, I would not hold my breath for software I would trust.”

Full Article: Wrong Votes and System Failures Mar South Carolina Elections, Report Finds - WhoWhatWhy.

South Carolina: Lawmakers push for independent commission to redraw district lines after 2020 | The Post and Courier

Some state lawmakers want to create a new commission to redraw the state’s legislative and congressional districts after 2020, setting the stage for a debate over gerrymandering and whether the Republican-led Legislature should be in charge of divvying up voters. A group of senators and representatives filed several pieces of legislation last week that would give South Carolinians the ability to choose whether state lawmakers or a commission made up of nine other people draw the state’s future political boundaries. Anyone who is or was a lobbyist, a candidate for office, a legislative staffer, an employee of a political party or contributed $2,000 or more to a political candidate in any given year could not serve on the proposed commission.

Full Article: Lawmakers push for independent commission to redraw district lines after 2020 | News | postandcourier.com.

South Carolina: Election Commission requesting new voting system that they say must have paper trail | Post and Courier

South Carolina election officials have taken a key step toward replacing the state’s 13,000 outdated voting machines and want the new system to generate a paper record after each ballot is cast. The state Election Commission on Friday outlined its call for a “statewide voting system solution” in a request for proposal, or RFP. The RFP marks the first formal step in soliciting contracts or bids from voting system vendors. Officials want the new system implemented by January 2020, ahead of the next presidential election. The touchscreen machines South Carolina voters have used since 2004 provide no paper record, making the Palmetto State one of five states where voting machines do not leave a paper trail behind. That means when there’s a contested election or a suspected security breach, there is currently no paper component for auditing results.

Full Article: SC Election Commission requesting new voting system that they say must have paper trail | Palmetto Politics | postandcourier.com.

South Carolina: Should South Carolina ditch outdated voting machines, switch to paper? | The State

A bipartisan group of legislators Tuesday proposed switching to paper ballots, even mail-in ballots, to replace the state’s “archaic” voting machines before South Carolinians cast their votes in the 2020 presidential election. Four S.C. House and Senate legislators said Tuesday they will pre-file bills next month to address the state’s aging voting machines and how the state should pay for a new voting system. “A voting system that is not only fair but also gives voters confidence that their vote has been cast and their vote has been … counted,” said state Sen. Thomas McElveen, D-Sumter. Money for a new voting system should not be that hard to find in what is developing as a flush budget year.

Full Article: Should South Carolina ditch outdated voting machines, switch to paper?.

South Carolina: Legislators call for return to paper-based voting in South Carolina | The Post and Courier

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.” 

Full Article: Legislators call for return to paper-based voting in South Carolina | News | postandcourier.com.