The Buzz

THE BUZZ: S.C. Election Commission wants $41.5 million for new voting machines

Valarie Chaney casts her vote for Lexington county sheriff in the Cayce #1 precinct in the American Legion Hall Post 130 on Marrch 3,2015.
Valarie Chaney casts her vote for Lexington county sheriff in the Cayce #1 precinct in the American Legion Hall Post 130 on Marrch 3,2015. tdominick@thestate.com

Before hundreds of thousands of S.C. Republican voters head to the polls Saturday for their party’s presidential primary, poll workers will be setting out roughly 13,000 voting machines that were purchased more than a decade ago — in 2004.

Those machines have a life expectancy of about 15 years, meaning they should be OK Saturday. However, the S.C. Election Commission is asking lawmakers for $41.5 million for a new voting machines.

“We’re still confident in our current voting system,” said Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire.

But, Whitmire added, the voting machines are kind of like a family car — it’s not a good idea to wait until it breaks down to start the search for a replacement.

Roughly $1 million has been set aside for the new voting machines in past state budgets.

This year, Gov. Nikki Haley put $20 million for new machines in her executive budget proposal, unveiled last month. Haley suggests spending another $20 million next year.

State Sen. Ronnie Cromer, the Newberry Republican who chairs the Senate budget subcommittee that will consider the voting-machine proposals, says the Election Commission’s request for $41.5 million likely will not be fully funded this year. “We’ve got enough other leaking holes in the dike that we need to plug up.”

That request comes in a year when lawmakers have an added $1.2 billion to spend. But other state agencies are vying for more money, too, for roads, bridges, schools and flood costs.

The state is not close to a situation similar to the 2012 voting meltdown in Richland County, which saw voters stand in line for hours to cast a ballot in the presidential race, Whitmire said. That debacle happened because not enough machines were put out, not because of the quality of the machines.

Still, the state’s current voting technology is becoming outdated. The voting system was bought in 2004, but its technology is older, Whitmire said.

“How many laptops do you see people using from 2003?”

American Party of S.C. to host county conventions

The S.C. American Party, a third party co-founded by former Democratic state schools superintendent Jim Rex and former Republican candidate for governor Oscar Lovelace, will host county conventions this month.

The conventions will be held to elect party officers at the county level, select delegates for a state convention and discuss possible American Party candidates for local offices, Rex said.

“This November's election will be an important opportunity to join the growing momentum in America against the two-party establishment and politics as usual,” the party said in a news release. “The presidential primaries have shown clearly that the majority of us are fed up with the status quo of our broken political system.”

The party’s Lexington County convention will be held Saturday at 3 p.m. at 110 Birch Terrace Court. Its Richland County convention will be held Feb. 23 at noon at the Columbia Marriott’s lobby lounge, 1200 Hampton St.

A full list of county conventions can be found at http://www.americanpartysc.com/convention-meetings.html.

Rice draws Democratic challenger

Coker College sociology professor Mal Hyman is running for the Democratic nomination for the 7th District congressional seat held by Republican Tom Rice of Myrtle Beach. Hyman announced his candidacy Thursday.

Rice first was elected to the newly created seat in 2012.

2016 in SC

For the latest news on the presidential campaigns and where the candidates will be, go to thestate.com/the-buzz.

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