COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- During the summer, the South Carolina Election Commission announced the purchased of a new voting system to replace the one the state had been using for the past 15 years.
The digital voting system is a two-step process. The election commission says the new machines will make voting simpler and more transparent, but some voters say they still prefer a paper, hand-marked ballot.
The state spent close to $52 million to purchase the new voting system. Chris Whitmire with SCEC explained why the change was needed.
“We were starting to see some signs of aging some machines failing and those sorts of things. The idea is to replace the voting system before it becomes an issue and effects our ability to conduct elections.”
With the new system voters insert a blank ballot, make their selections, then receive a print out of their choices . That ballot is then scanned by another computer to count the vote.
Whitmire elaborated on the importance of having a paper ballot with the new system compared to the electronic votes on the old system. “Paper is a major advantage of this system in that it adds that extra layer of security because at the end of the day we have a paper record of every voters vote.”
But some voters are worried that record of the votes may not be accurate.
“What gets counted are barcodes that are printed. they can be smeared. and they cannot be voter verified. The voters can read what is printed, but they cannot verify what is going to be counted is what they intended to vote,” said Duncan Buell.
However, the election commission says that barcode will not be used for verification, the original paper ballots will.
Whitmire added, “We’re testing ballots ahead of time to make sure the barcode matches up and records properly the correct votes cast on the ballot. So when we go back and audit we’re not looking at barcodes we’re looking at what you looked at as a voter.”
Duncan Buell used the machines Thursday for early in-person absentee voting. Buell is also concerned about wait times with the new machines.
” I don’t think these voting computers are going to shorten the voting time at all. There’s the time to stick the paper in, time to take the paper out. Longer lines suppress the minority vote; people who are not salary and cant take the time off,” Buell added.
The election commission says time will probably not decrease at the polls because of the new system, but the commission does not expect wait times to increase drastically either.
The new voting system officially went online earlier this month for voters in Aiken County. Voters in York County are up next and will be the second group to use the new system.
State law requires 1 voting machine for every 250 voters. In total, the state purchased 14 thousand voting machines and 2500 of the machines that count the votes.