After a Senate panel heard testimony on April 14 from a handful of election watchdogs critical of the state’s system of electronic voting machines, a rather testy exchange took place in the hallway. “You guys have a tough job,” said USC computer scientist Duncan Buell to Chris Whitmire, the spokesman for the South Carolina State Election Commission. “You have a really tough job, but you’re in deep denial about reality.”
Buell has blasted the state agency in charge of South Carolina’s voting machines for some time. In February, after an independent audit he conducted with another computer expert, the two compiled a report that illustrated how the agency failed to count more than 1,000 votes in the November elections in Richland County alone.
Whitmire admits that the Election Commission did certify inaccurate results, but says the disparity wouldn’t have been enough to change the outcome of any election. Buell and others want post-election audits to ensure no votes end up in a black hole in the future. They are continuing an independent audit of their own to find out how widespread the problem of missing votes in the state is. During the hearing, Election Commission director Marci Andino testified that the agency has already begun doing some post-election audits.
For future statewide elections, the commission plans to have counties conduct their own audits of their results prior to county certification and then have the agency audit a 10 percent random sample to look for discrepancies. The system of electronic iVotronic machines the state purchased in 2004 is about halfway through its life cycle, Andino said, and added that the agency has had its budget cut by 56 percent in recent years.
The League of Women Voters of South Carolina has taken the position that there should be a voter-verified paper trail for all votes. The group’s advocacy director Carole Cato, who also testified, says a true recount is impossible with the machines the state currently uses