America’s democracy rests on a foundation of free, fair and open elections. While ensuring the integrity of our election system is vital, it is just as important to ensure that voters have faith in the system.
Every election presents its own set of challenges. This year, accusations of a “rigged” election and the threat of a foreign government disrupting the election undermine the public’s trust and confidence in the election system. As election officials, we have a duty and responsibility to respond to these challenges by strengthening our efforts to protect and secure our election infrastructure.
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At the State Election Commission, we take the security of South Carolina’s elections very seriously. We are working every day with state and federal law enforcement, intelligence officials and highly skilled state and private cybersecurity specialists to ensure we are taking all reasonable measures to protect our voter registration and voting systems.
Recently, there have been a number of high-profile cybersecurity breaches in other states’ voter registration databases. We have learned from those events and are working to protect our own systems. We have implemented numerous defense measures, and we are continuously monitoring and fine-tuning the security of our systems.
Since the voting system was implemented in 2004, the physical security of the voting system has been carefully monitored to protect against unauthorized access or tampering. At no time are voting machines connected to the Internet or a network of any kind, greatly reducing the likelihood of hacking and other attacks. Prior to every election, voting machines are publicly tested for accuracy and to make sure they are in good working order.
On Election Day, voting machines store vote totals in multiple locations to ensure votes will not be lost. On election night, results are publicly reported at each polling place and then at the county and state levels. Following the election, a comprehensive audit is conducted to ensure the results are accurate before they become official. Audit data from all voting machines and audit reports are made available to the public via scVotes.org.
Beyond securing the technology that helps run our elections, we must reject the notion that widespread cheating or fraud threatens the integrity of elections. Several years ago, our General Assembly passed a law requiring voters to show a photo ID in order to vote in-person. While voter fraud is extremely rare, this additional step should reassure voters that it is even more unlikely to occur. At the same time, our law ensures that those with reasonable impediments to obtaining a photo ID are still able to cast a ballot.
Furthermore, the very way we conduct our elections should instill trust in the system. While the State Election Commission provides assistance, training and other support, all of our elections are conducted at a local level by nonpartisan election professionals. When you go to vote, the 20,000 poll workers running the polls are your relatives, friends and neighbors. They’re fellow citizens who provide their time and talent to protect the most sacred act in our political system. Rightfully so, they take pride in the role they play in our state and country. The idea that election officials would not follow election laws and procedures or “rig” an election is simply without foundation and frankly disrespectful to their service.
To build and maintain trust in the election process, elections must be conducted in an open and transparent manner. Any candidate, political party or individual citizen must be able to observe the public testing of the voting system, operation of a polling place, tabulation of votes and certification of election results. And that happens in South Carolina. By allowing public access to the process, we let citizens see firsthand how elections are conducted in our state.
It would be irresponsible to say any system is 100 percent secure. Making that kind of claim invites mischief on the part of those who seek to compromise the system and disrupt the election process. But South Carolinians can be confident that checks and balances are in place and multiple state and federal agencies are working together to protect both the technical and the human aspects of our system to the greatest degree possible.
When you go to the polls on Tuesday — indeed, every time you participate in an election — you can be assured that in South Carolina, every vote matters, and every vote counts.
Ms. Andino is executive director of the S.C. State Election Commission; contact her at email@example.com.