Voters who go to the polls today will be using South Carolina’s new voting machines.

"We have a demo that is up and ready for anybody to come in any day ... to do a demo," Orangeburg County Director of Voter Registration and Elections Aurora Smalls said.

"When people come in to register or change addresses, we try to introduce them to the machine,” she said.

The new ExpressVote system combines electronic voting with a paper ballot. Orangeburg County has 250 ballot-marking machines and 59 ballot scanners.

The ballot-marking machine prints out a voter’s choices on a paper ballot. After checking the paper ballot, the voter places it on a ballot scanner to be counted.

"It will make the voter feel more secure with their ballot so whatever they chose on the screen is what prints out," Smalls said. "It will make the voter feel more confident because a lot of times we had people say, 'Well, I keyed in this but how do I know this is actually what happened?’"

The new voting system was entirely funded by South Carolina. The statewide, $51 million price tag included hardware, software, implementation, training and support.

Bamberg County has 53 ExpressVote voting machines and 15 ballot scanners while Calhoun County has 50 ballot marking machines and 14 scanners.

The machines will also be used for the Democratic presidential preference primary Feb. 29, 2020 and the presidential election in November 2020.

According to the S.C. Election Commission’s website, South Carolina’s previous voting machines were purchased in 2004 and had neared the end of their useful life.

Tuesday’s election will mark the first relatively large rollout of the machines statewide.

Smalls says absentee voters have already been using the machines.

"I think everybody likes it," Smalls said. "It was not difficult because it is similar to the old machine. The only difference is you are putting in the paper and taking the paper out and putting it in the scanner."

"The screen itself looks similar to what we have been doing," she said.

Smalls said help will be provided at the precincts on Election Day for people having difficulties understanding the machines.

Calhoun County Director of Voter Registration and Elections Shayla Jenkins said she’s gotten positive feedback on the machines.

"People like seeing the actual paper to see the trail to verify the selection they made,” she said.

Here is how the new voting process will work:

• To use the ExpressVote, a voter will show a photo ID, confirm their address and sign the poll list as normal.

• The voter will receive a blank ballot card and will go to a ballot-marking machine.

• The voter will insert the ballot card with the corner cut at the top right into the machine.

• The machine will then display an item to be voted on via a touchtone voting screen.

• The voter touches or selects his or her choice on the screen. Selections will be checked and highlighted.

• To cast a write-in, the voter will touch "WRITE-IN." A touchscreen keyboard will appear. The candidate's name will be typed in and then the voter will hit "ACCEPT" to continue voting.

• The voter will touch “NEXT” to move onto the next vote. The voter can touch “PREVIOUS” to return to the previous vote.

• After completing the last page, the voter will touch "NEXT" to review the selections. The review screen will notify the voter if he or she has not voted a contest or selected fewer candidates than allowed.

• If a voter has hit the wrong spot on the voting machine or wants to make a change, the voter will touch the screen again on the choice the voter wants to change. The machine will then allow the voter to change the vote. When satisfied with all selections the voter will touch "NEXT."

• After satisfactorily casting all votes, the voter will touch the "PRINT CARD" icon found at the bottom of the screen. The printed ballot card will be returned to the voter from the slot on the front of the ballot-marking machine.

• Voters will get another chance to review the ballot. If changes need to be made at this time, the voter is to contact the poll manager for a replacement.

• After successfully completing all desired selections, voters will then take the ballot showing their final votes to the ballot scanner and insert the ballot face down on the green arrow. If a ballot is not inserted into the scanner, it will not be counted and the votes will not count.

• After the machine records the votes, the machine will feed the ballot into a locked ballot box. This will complete a person's vote.

The Orangeburg County Voter Registration and Elections office is located at 1475 Amelia Street, Orangeburg.

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Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.


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