New Voting System is Decided

The South Carolina Elections Commission yesterday announced the award of a contract for a new statewide voting system. That report states that after a lengthy evaluation of numerous proposals, an evaluation panel unanimously selected the Election Systems and Software (ES&S) ExpressVote voting system. The new paper-based system will replace the state’s aging paperless system that has been in place since 2004.

While some of the details of the new voting system are still to be learned, Laurens County Elections Director Lynne West yesterday gave WLBG News an overview of what will be different for voters when the new system is in place.

“The voters will check in like they do now, at the polling location and they’ll be given….a blank ballot, a card. And when they go to the voting machine, they’ll insert that into a voting machine they’ll be able to mark their ballot electronically. Which means they’ll push a button, whether they want candidate A or Candidate B. And after they do that, the ballot will print back out – a printed ballot. So, you’ll actually be able to hold in your hand the piece of paper that has the selections you’ve made printed on it. And you can review your selections at that time. And then, if your paper ballot that you’re holding in your hand is correct, you’ll insert that into the scanner. So, we’ll always have that paper ballot that you looked at in the case of any recount or protest or any other reason that we might want to actually see a paper ballot as opposed to an electronic tally.”

The new voting system coast approximately $51 million, including hardware, software, implementation, training and support.

Advantages the State Election Commission cited for the new system include their being fully accessible for people with disabilities, allowing every South Carolinian to vote independently using the same equipment as other voters. The system prevents overvoting, where someone selects more candidates for a position than allowed. It’s also designed to prevent stray marks on the ballot which can cause overvoting or for a vote to be cast differently than intended. The new “Express Vote” system reminds voters if they missed voting for an office or if they voted for fewer candidates than allowed.

State and county election officials will be offering demonstrations and other voter education opportunities as soon as possible.