The technology and organization of elections in South Carolina make it highly unlikely and extremely difficult for the results in the Palmetto State to be "rigged," S.C. State Election Commission officials said Tuesday.
The Nov. 8 general election is organized on the county level, meaning a "rigged" election, which Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has warned of, would require the collusion of 46 different county elections officials.
"If a conspiracy is that large, we have bigger problems," said Chris Whitmire, the commission's spokesman.
The state's voting machines are never connected to the internet or any other network. Each vote is recorded in three "redundant locations" on hardware in the voting machine that must be physically removed and given to county elections offices, where all the votes are counted and certified, said Marci Andino, the commission's executive director. The officials who run county election offices are "election professionals" who have not been elected or appointed by an elected official.
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Andino said the commission is "concerned about campaign rhetoric" charging electoral fraud, and that some voters may believe those charges. The opportunity that rhetoric provides, Andino said, is for the commission to operate with transparency.
"We have not had an election where the security and authenticity has been questioned like this," Andino said. "We are taking steps to ensure the election is as secure as it possibly can be."
Some Republican politicians, including Trump and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, are also warning supporters that fraudulent voting may occur using dead people's identities. This is not an issue in South Carolina, Whitmire said. Allegations of voter fraud occur "from time to time," but are "very rare" and occur more frequently in local elections than federal, he said.
"In Marlboro County there was a city council race, I think in McCall, where a guy was giving people beer to vote absentee for him," Whitmire said, recalling one recent case. "There's nothing to indicate large-scale fraud."
The commission is working with SLED, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the National Guard and a private security firm to protect both in-person voting and the state database of registered voters. Other states' voter rolls have been targeted by hackers looking to acquire the personal information. If hackers were able to breach South Carolina's voter registration data, they still wouldn't be able to inject artificial votes into an election's results, Andino said.
"We are taking all reasonable measures to protect our infrastructure," she said.
Despite some voters' concerns about the integrity of the presidential election, the election commission says absentee voting is up between 15 and 20 percent from where it was at this point in 2012. Approximately 48,000 absentee ballots have been submitted and 182,000 applications have been issued. In 2012, 400,000 people in South Carolina voted absentee.