Voting Blogs: Paper Trail: South Carolina’s Problematic DRE Voting Machines | State of Elections

October 21, 2013

Last November, Richland County residents seeking to participate in local elections encountered an unanticipated hindrance at polling stations: stagnant lines of voters unable to cast their ballots because of malfunctioning voting machines. The lines reportedly were so outrageous that some residents had to wait upwards of seven hours to vote. Many voters grew impatient and left polling stations without submitting a ballot. Moreover, the disarray was hardly confined to election day. In the week after polls closed, a court-ordered recount of the election results sparked a back-and-forth legal battle between Democrats and Republicans over whether a local or statewide election agency should be tasked with tallying the votes in the recount. The dispute was not settled until the South Carolina Supreme Court intervened, and nearly two weeks elapsed before the election results were finalized. In 2004, the South Carolina State Election Commission (SEC) purchased roughly twelve thousand iVotronic voting machines for around $34 million. At the time of their purchase, the iVotronic systems were considered ultramodern direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting technology. Like most DRE models, the iVotronic enables voters to cast their vote via an electronic touch-screen without handling a paper ballot. Once a voter has electronically submitted his choice, the machine stores the selection in an internal memory device. Upon an election’s conclusion, the iVotronic machine prints a tape displaying the total number of votes cast for each office as well as the total number of votes cast for each candidate. In theory, DRE systems such as iVotronic provide a modern solution to antiquated election problems. In practice, however, DRE systems do not always function so smoothly.