Politics & Government

Should SC ditch outdated voting machines, switch to paper? Some lawmakers think so

The cost of new voting security in South Carolina

South Carolina voters can be assured your vote is safe from hackers just in time for the 2018 midterm elections
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South Carolina voters can be assured your vote is safe from hackers just in time for the 2018 midterm elections

A bipartisan group of legislators Tuesday proposed switching to paper ballots, even mail-in ballots, to replace the state’s “archaic” voting machines before South Carolinians cast their votes in the 2020 presidential election.

Four S.C. House and Senate legislators said Tuesday they will pre-file bills next month to address the state’s aging voting machines and how the state should pay for a new voting system.

“A voting system that is not only fair but also gives voters confidence that their vote has been cast and their vote has been ... counted,” said state Sen. Thomas McElveen, D-Sumter.

Money for a new voting system should not be that hard to find in what is developing as a flush budget year.

The state will have $1 billion more to spend next year in its $9 billion general fund budget, the state Board of Economic Advisors forecasts. That added money includes the state’s one-time budget surplus of $177 million and the state’s $61.5 million share of October’s historic S.C. Lottery winnings.

State and county election officials have urged lawmakers to spend money to replace 13,000 old touchscreen voting machines, bought in 2004. Those machines posed problems last week in Richland and York counties, where voters complained the machines were changing their candidate selections when they pressed the screens.

The S.C. Election Commission has asked lawmakers to put $60 million in the state’s 2018-’19 budget for new voting machines that produce a paper audit, which the state currently does not have.

The state already has about $10 million set aside for new voting machines, said S.C. Elections Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire.

But a lawmaker Tuesday questioned that $60 million price tag.

“We’re being told, ‘Give us the money and we’ll do a fine job,’ “ said state Rep. Kirkman Finlay, R-Richland. “The reason we’re having this press conference is because it hasn’t been a fine job in the past.”

Maayan Schechter: 803-771-8657, @MaayanSchechter
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Maayan Schechter (My-yawn Schek-ter) covers the S.C. State House and politics for The State, focusing primarily on the state budget and the lawmakers who decide how your tax dollars get spent. She grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville. She has previously worked at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News.