South Carolina would have to spend $17 million to retrofit its voting machines to produce a paper trail, which some consider essential for upholding the public’s trust in election results, a new audit says.
The Legislative Audit Council report, released Wednesday, found that there have been errors attributed to the iVotronic machines, which the state’s 46 counties have used for almost a decade.
“The voting machine South Carolina uses is not certified by the federal Election Assistance Commission,” it noted. “Current machines do not produce paper audit trails. To address this, it would cost $17 million to add a voter verifiable paper audit trail to the voting machines.”
The report is expected to influence the General Assembly’s discussion about replacing the machines in the future.
Frank Heindel, a Charleston businessman who has done extensive research on the machines, said the auditors did a good job.
“I hope that everybody can just look and realize that what we’ve got has grown obsolete,” he said. “We have to have a paper ballot produced by the voter in order to have an effective audit to ensure the election process has integrity.”
The audit stopped short of recommending replacement of the machines, but included 16 recommendations regarding auditing elections, certifying results, tracking machine problems and training election workers.
The audit also was well received by the State Election Commission. Its executive director, Marci Andino, said the audit enhances transparency and “provides very valuable feedback and recommendations for improving the election process in the state.”
Andino said it’s important to note that a voter-verified paper audit trail was not available when the state bought the machines in 2004. She said the commission still has confidence in them.
Others have not shared that confidence, however. The machines’ performance has been questioned ever since the surprising result in the 2010 Democratic U.S. Senate primary, where unknown candidate Alvin Greene beat Charleston County Councilman and former judge Vic Rawl by a 3-2 ratio.
Heindel said he hopes the audit will lead to a broader discussion about the state’s machines, and its entire voting process.
“Before it was just a few voices out in the wilderness,” he said. “This is a start in the right direction. It’s time to wise up and look around for some realistic alternatives.”