BEAUFORT, S.C. (WSAV) – South Carolina voters will be using a new statewide voting system by early next year.
The state election commission says it’s a new paper-based system which uses a ballot marking device and a digital scanner to actually record the votes on a paper ballot.
State officials say it is a good combination of solving security concerns and using new technology.
“It will provide an additional layer of security for South Carolina’s election infrastructure and that comes in the form of that paper record,’ said Chris Whitmire from the South Carolina State Election Commission.
Whitmire says after voters mark their choices on the machine (ballot marking device) that a paper ballot is printed and that ballot will be scanned electronically. The vote is recorded in the scanner and the paper saved.
“What that does is provide election officials with a way to go back and audit paper ballots to verify results,” said Whitmire.
He says the state is also promising a new form of transparency. Images of the paper ballots will be put online after an election for anyone who basically wants to count the vote themselves.
“Not only do we count the votes, but we’re going to put the ballots out there and let anybody else who wants to count them as well,” said Whitmire.
He also says the marking devices are more adaptable for a handicapped voter.
“The Express Vote is unique in that every unit is an accessible unit, they all have a headphone jack, they all have Braille embossed buttons, they all have the ability to make the font bigger,” said Whitmire. “Accessibility was a big consideration in terms of picking a system.”
The state of Georgia is planning to go to a similar system. Its costs will be $150 million compared to South Carolina’s $50 million. And there are still some critics expressing concerns in Georgia regarding the new system.
Those critics say that a simple paper ballot system where people actually mark a piece of paper would be easier, cheaper and probably ultimately safer.
Whitmire says there may be some concerns in terms of the fact that the digital scanners record and electronically log the votes from the paper. But he says that security experts were consulted and a select committee in South Carolina came to the conclusion that the ballot marking device and digital scanner system was the best way to go.
“They got a lot of advice about security and it was a huge factor in making this decision,” said Whitmire.
The State of South Carolina must install up to 13,500 machines in its 46 counties. Whitmire said the plan is to have the new system in place by Feb. 2020 in time for the Democratic Party presidential primary.