Does South Carolina’s new polling system get a vote of confidence?
South Carolina will implement a new voting system starting January 1, 2020. The new method will be a mixture of the new and old by offering voters a touchscreen interface to make their choices, but will add “the security of a paper ballot,” according to the South Carolina State Election Commission.
Voters will make their decision with the touchscreen and the new machine will print out a paper ballot. Individuals can review the ballot to assure their votes are correct, then they will enter them into the machine. Votes will be scanned and tallied when the paper is securely put in the ballot box. The paper ballots will be saved “for auditing and verification of results,” the Commission said.
“I think there will be a learning curve,” said Berkeley County Voter Registration and Elections Director Adam Hammons. “I think it will continue to allow voters to access their ballot in the way that they’re used to.”
Hammons added that he believes the new system will be a good change for the county.
“This new one should work better, should work faster, shouldn’t have as many problems,” he said. “This will be able to improve the speed that we serve voters.”
The old voting system was introduced in 2004, leading Hammons to assert that it was time for the state to upgrade.
“Everybody had it by 2005,” he said. “So, you’re looking at a system that’s 14, 15 years old. It was just kind of at the end of its lifespan.”
Not everyone, however, is pleased with the new system. Christe McCoy-Lawrence of the League of Women Voters South Carolina said that her organization is disappointed by the change.
“We have been studying, researching, and tracking data on voting systems for about 10 years and feel strongly that the citizens of South Carolina would have been much better served by a true paper system — a system of hand-marked paper ballots scanned electronically at the precinct,” McCoy-Lawrence explained.
According to Verified Voting, a voter rights advocacy group that researches U.S. elections, the majority of states do have a system that allows for paper ballots or mixes paper ballots with electronics.
The same source states that a voter-verified paper ballot is also more cost-effective than a computer system. The South Carolina State Election Commission said that the new system will cost approximately $51 million. News of the system comes three years after reports of foreign interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
In April, F.B.I. Director Christopher Wray warned that election meddling continues to be a “significant counterintelligence threat.”
And while there are several concerns over the system, the League of Women Voters of South Carolina remains hopeful.
“There was considerable bipartisan support for the hand-marked paper ballot system, and we are troubled by this procurement decision to buy an expensive computerized system,” said McCoy. “But we do feel now that the most important thing is for all voters to be encouraged to go to the polls and participate in our electoral process. The system will be new, and we will hope for the best.”