Agency hopes to replace SC voting machines by 2017

The State.com
The Associated Press

The state Election Commission is inviting county officials and state lawmakers to review potential replacements for South Carolina’s decade-old touchscreen voting machines.

Spokesman Chris Whitmire says the agency is holding a voting system fair Wednesday that will include presentations from four companies that chose to participate.

The agency hopes to replace, by 2017, the current system that’s been used statewide since January 2005. It consists of more than 12,500 voting machines split between 2,260 precincts.

Election officials are increasingly getting complaints from voters that the touchscreens are slow or not working properly. That’s often due to the old technology not meeting voters’ expectations, Whitmire said.

“They expect when they use the touchscreen it will work like their phone,” he said.

The lengthy replacement timeline calls for the state to request bids this fall, evaluate proposals next spring, award a contract by August 2016 and distribute the new machines for use beginning in January 2017. The June 2018 primaries would be the first statewide election with the new system.

The agency expects the new system to cost roughly $40 million. That would be about $6 million more than the state paid in 2004, Whitmire said.

Last year, the Legislature set aside $1 million toward the future project.

Agency officials asked legislators to set aside $20 million in the upcoming budget, with the intention to request the remainder in 2016-17, Whitmire said.

But legislators have designated no money for the machines in their budget proposals for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

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