On the South Carolina Primary. A call for recountable, auditable voting systems

June 14, 2010

From the Verified Voting Foundation.

Last week’s surprising outcome in a party primary in South Carolina for United States Senate was accompanied by anecdotal reports of voting problems on election day, and many questions about the accuracy of the vote count.

Whether specific reports of irregularities in this election are confirmed, the most important fact about South Carolina’s voting system is that most ballots cannot be effectively audited or recounted. Serious concerns about the integrity of the primary (and of other elections conducted using the same technology) are inevitable, and legitimate.

South Carolina uses paperless touch-screen electronic voting machines for all but absentee voting, which is done using paper ballots. Thus for the vast majority of votes, voters cannot check1 to be sure their votes were recorded as intended, and election officials cannot conduct legitimate recounts or audits to prove that the machines were counting the votes correctly. When there is no reliable hard-copy record of the voters’ intent to fall back on, election officials, candidates and the public are at the mercy of the counting software, which may or may not function correctly. Absent a “do-over” election using a system that can be recounted or audited, there is simply no way to know if the outcome was correct. In our 2008 joint report report “Is America Ready to Vote" (www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/is_america_ready_to_vote/), Common Cause, Verified Voting, and the Brennan Center for Justice rated South Carolina inadequate for failing to offer the basics of a verified election: an auditable system, and manual audits of the system to check electronic counts.

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