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A League of Women Voters analysis of South Carolina’s voting technology shows continued software deficiencies in the Election Systems and Security technology used in the state.

Dr. Duncan Buell has been analyzing South Carolina election data since 2010 on behalf of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina. His analysis of the November 2018 general election shows the ES&S voting system’s deficiencies lead to significant errors that can damage election integrity and voter confidence.

The problems that have been detected with the voting computers are the responsibility of the manufacturer, not the State Election Commission, which has upgraded the computers as instructed by the manufacturer, according to Buell.

The voting computers used in South Carolina have miscounted the vote in recent elections, the LWV states. Although the manufacturer has recently upgraded the software, Buell found that several hundred votes were miscounted in the June 12 primary and November general election.

The discoveries highlight the problem of using computers for elections when there is no backup capability and insufficient enforcement of computer-related technical standards.

Buell says the report documents the need for a more secure, more efficient and more cost-effective solution for South Carolina.

As it marks its 50th anniversary year, the State Election Commission is looking for such a solution.

SEC in December, in conjunction with the State Fiscal Accountability Authority, released an official Request for Proposals for a new statewide voting system. The SEC is seeking a uniform, statewide system that features a paper record of each voter’s voted ballot to replace the current paperless system. The SEC expects to implement the new system by January 2020.

A new voting system will not only provide the state with a dependable system that will serve voters for years to come but will also improve the security and resilience of our election process. Having a paper record of each voter’s voted ballot will add an important layer of security as it allows for post-election audits of ballots to verify vote totals.

The SEC said it issued the RFP in December to allow adequate time for evaluation of voting system proposals and subsequent implementation by January 2020. It continues working with the S.C. General Assembly to acquire funding for the replacement effort.

In the 2018 session, the General Assembly turned down a request from the State Election Commission and Gov. Henry McMaster to expedite the replacement of voting machines, providing $4 million of a $20 million request to move ahead on a project expected to cost about $50 million.

There is urgency if the state is to do better for the 2020 election.

Even if all of the funding is provided this year, the earliest South Carolina voters would have access to new machines would be 2020 – and there is doubt as to whether they could be available in time for the presidential primaries early next year.

Lawmakers have their eyes on what to do with a budget surplus. There are many proposals and good causes. Updating the voting system would be a wise use of a portion of the money.

The integrity and security of the vote are vital.

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