SC’s new voting system combines digital and paper ballots

State - Regional

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA)- Earlier this week, the South Carolina Election Commission announced a new a voting system for the state. It’s an upgrade lawmakers and voters have been pushing for.

The state election commission has also been working towards replacing the state’s current voting system, which is 15 years old.

Chris Whitmire, with the commission, said the agency is excited for the change.

“It’s going to give voters a reliable system to use for many years to come, and it’s going to give a layer of protection we didn’t have before,” Whitmire said.

The outdated machines have caused issues in previous elections explained Representative Alan Clemmons. Clemmons cosponsored a bill before the new system was announced that extended the deadline for the state to make a decision on the best vendor.

Clemmons added, “Their [voting machines] backup tapes not being readable so when that happens that can throw an entire election into doubt. We don’t have a dependable way to look back and verify there have been no errors.”

This new voting system solves that problem. It combines the convenience of a digital voting machine and transparency of a paper ballot.

Whitmire continued, “What that is used for is to verify the results of the election, for recounts, and it becomes a record of the election.”

It’s a two-part process. Voters put the ballot in the machine and make their selections. The voter will immediately receive a printout of their choice. Voters then take that ballot to another machine for an audit.

The audit part of the process actually records the vote in three different places. It takes a picture of the ballot, preserves the original paper slip, and records the votes on a USB. The commission says those images and data could be easily displayed for the public.

The commission plans to have the new system rolled out by January in time for the 2020 presidential election.

“What we can we do to ensure that every voter has confidence that their vote counts, that it wont’ be changed or cast aside, this system gives us that in my opinion,” said Rep. Clemmons.

In the 2019 fiscal budget there is $40 million designated to replace the voting system. That money combined with funds the election commission already has in its bank will pay for the new machines that cost approximately $51 million.

All elections beginning January 1, 2020 will be done on these new machines. The first statewide election will be held February 29, which is the Democratic Presidential Preference Primary.

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