South Carolina is receiving federal funds to boost its election security — but not enough to make the changes state election officials say are really needed. The S.C. Election Commission will receive a $6 million grant from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to improve the state’s election security ahead of the 2018 election, including replacing some of the state’s aging voting machines. The grant money, combined with $4 million lawmakers are expected spend this year and $1 million election officials have set aside, gives the state $11 million total to spend on updating the state’s 14-year-old voting machines. But election officials say the cost of replacing the more than 13,000 machines voters use to cast their ballots statewide could reach $50 million.
Articles about voting issues in South Carolina.
South Carolina: Registering by party idea spurs questions, fear ahead of primaries | The Post and Courier
Lonnie Smith grew up questioning his world, including why certain people got elected in South Carolina. The 28-year-old Conway man can still remember going to church in 2004 when George W. Bush was running for president. He kept hearing people in the pews describe the Texas Republican as “a good person and a good Christian man.” “Would you go to the plumber with the Christian fish on the back of their truck or would you go with the one who is going to do the best job?” Smith remembers asking a fellow believer one Sunday.
A South Carolina state representative introduced two bills Tuesday that would place redistricting power in the hands of voters instead of politicians, a proposal that has had little movement in the past. “We need to change this system of politicians picking voters and get back to voters picking the politicians,” said bill sponsor Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, an Orangeburg Democrat who announced the bills on the second floor Statehouse lobby surrounded by supporters. The proposed Citizens Redistricting Commission would create a 14-member commission, two members representing each congressional district. Eligible voters who qualify for the job apply and go through a jury selection process before securing a spot on the commission. One of the qualifications for the job is not holding a position in office.
Filing opens Friday for candidates running in South Carolina’s 2018 election — from the governor and statewide offices to congressional and S.C. House races. But hanging over this election season are two U.S. Supreme Court cases that could reshape the state’s elections. Wisconsin Democrats claim that state’s election districts are so politically gerrymandered — redistricted to favor Republican candidates — that they violate voters’ constitutional rights. In another case before the Supreme Court, Maryland Republicans claim Democrats in that state unfairly gerrymandered a congressional district to favor their party. The justices’ decisions, expected this summer, could change the way election lines are drawn for federal, state and local races in South Carolina and across the country.
South Carolina: Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant calls for voters to register by party affiliation | Greenville News
South Carolina Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant called Monday for changing voter-registration rules to protect the “integrity” of the state’s elections.
Bryant, a pharmacist from Anderson who is running for governor, wants South Carolina voters to register by party affiliation. Under his proposal, voters then would be restricted to casting ballots in their identified party’s primary.
Primaries in the state have been open to all voters for decades. The state’s voter-registration laws do not include any party-affiliation requirement.
Bryant said that 60,000 voters who cast ballots in South Carolina’s 2016 Democratic Party presidential primary took part months later in the Republican primary for state elections.
“I have no business voting in a Democratic primary. I am a Republican,” Bryant said during a speech to members of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce.
The change that he is seeking is part of a seven-point campaign platform that Bryant describes as a “Contract with South Carolina.” He discussed several of the ideas during his appearance Monday.
When S.C. voters whittle down the list of who will become their next governor on June 12, election officials want to ensure their voting information is protected from attacks – including Russian hackers. State election officials are asking the Legislature to give their agency $250,000 in added money so they can make any needed changes to the state’s voter registration system and its network if voter information is compromised. “Security has always been important to us,” said spokesman Chris Whitmire of the S.C. Election Commission, which is asking for a total of $24.9 million in the state budget that starts July 1. “But, certainly, things changed in 2016 with the emerging threats that were out there.”
In 2016, Russian hackers tried to gain access to millions of the country’s voter registration records.
In South Carolina, election officials told lawmakers that on Election Day there were 150,000 attempts to gain access into the state’s voting system, which secures information on roughly 3.2 million registered voters.
Those attempts did not just come from hackers, Whitmire said. Some of the attempts could have been from bots, researchers and private companies looking to make money off the state by catching gaps in its voting system, elections officials have been told.
South Carolina: South Carolina election agency can withhold cybersecurity documents, attorney general’s office says | Post and Courier
Amid intensified focus on election cybersecurity, South Carolina’s top government lawyers have advised the state’s election agency that it does not need to publicly release documents about how it is protecting voting systems. Citing a “significant increase” in open records requests about cybersecurity, State Election Commission Director Marci Andino requested an opinion from Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office about whether cybersecurity matters fall under an exception to the law that excludes information relating to “security plans and devices.” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Houck responded in an opinion that a court likely would find that the security plans exemption would apply to cybersecurity infrastructure, allowing the agency to withhold documents about the state’s protection systems.
Voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around, according to a voter education group. This seems to be the rally cry of the League of Women’s Voters of South Carolina, whose local members held an information meeting last Thursday at the Hartsville Memorial Library. The meeting went over the age-old problem of gerrymandering, where elected officials attempt to keep voting districts favorable to one side of party affiliation or the other. “Representative of both major political parties seek partisan advantage from gerrymandering,” said information from the meeting. “This is not a problem associated with one or another political party. Incumbent protection has also shaped South Carolina’s districts.”
Although elections officials say they’re seeing more failures with their 13-year-old touch-screen voting machines, it could be years before voters get to cast ballots on a new statewide system that’s estimated to cost at least $40 million. “South Carolina has been using the current system since 2004, and it’s reaching the end of its useful life,” said Chris Whitmire, a spokesman for the state Election Commission. “We are seeing more issues with machines, the most common of which is touchscreen failure.” He added: “While no votes are lost when that happens — and we can handle isolated failures — we have to take steps to ensure the viability of the system in the years to come.”
State election officials say that despite millions of cyber attempts to gain access to South Carolina’s voter registration system in the past year, no one has succeeded. But two election watchdogs complain that problems have been discovered and they want to be shown evidence of their severity. … Initial assessments by the S.C. National Guard’s Military Department Defense Cyber Operations and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security done in the wake of the Russian hacking of the presidential election found weaknesses in all county offices and at the state elections agency. The elections agency later hired the Charleston-based cybersecurity firm Soteria to plug the holes. But a USC computer science professor and a Lowcountry elections watchdog want to see the full assessments for themselves. “Every single county has at least a critical or high vulnerability,” said University of South Carolina computer science professor and elections analyst Duncan Buell. “They were not doing the no-brainer things for election security.” The Homeland Security assessment found the same level of vulnerability in servers used by the state agency, he said.