For Immediate Release: September 23, 2004
Contact: Stephanie Jones at (803) 233-2452
Counties will be first in state to use touch screen electronic voting system
COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina State Election Commission and county election officials today introduced the new electronic touch screen voting machines and launched an intensive outreach effort to educate voters about the new voting system that will debut in the November elections for voters in 15 counties.
“We want as many voters as possible to have the opportunity to see, touch and become comfortable with using the machines before Election Day,” said Marci Andino, executive director of the State Election Commission.
Voting on the new system is easy. Voters select their candidates by simply touching a selection on the screen. Once completed, a final review screen allows voters to review and change their ballot before pushing a single red “vote” button to cast their ballot. The act of pushing the red “vote” button is just like dropping a ballot in the ballot box.
The touch screen machine reminds voters if they have forgotten to vote on every office or question on a ballot, and it will not allow voters to vote for more candidates than allowed. Finally, for the first time in election history, blind or visually impaired South Carolinians will be able to use an audio ballot to cast their votes in private and without assistance.
South Carolina is one of the first states in the country to replace the majority of its punch card and optical scan voting systems with new touch screen electronic systems. The change comes as South Carolina implements the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, enacted as a response to voting problems that came to light in Florida during the 2000 presidential election. Federal funds are paying 95 percent of the cost for the new system. The remaining five percent was appropriated by the state.
The State Election Commission worked with county election officials and organizations representing a broad range of South Carolinians to develop a HAVA implementation plan. Voting systems currently vary by county, with some using punch cards, optical scan systems or another form of electronic voting.
By 2006, South Carolina will have in place a uniform voting system – with the touch screen machines – improving the current system by ensuring even greater reliability and consistency across the state.
Counties that will use the new system this fall are: Abbeville, Aiken, Anderson, Calhoun, Cherokee, Florence, Greenville, Greenwood, Kershaw, Lexington, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg, Union and York. The remainder of South Carolina counties will be receiving the new systems over the next two years.
The new system includes multiple security measures to ensure security and reliability. For example, voting data is stored in three independent memory locations, making it virtually impossible for votes to be lost, altered or miscounted. Furthermore, the voting machine itself is never connected to a computer network or the Internet, eliminating the possibility of “hacking.” Each machine operates independently so there is no possibility of a “network crash”.
At simultaneous press conferences in Aiken, Florence, Greenville, Lexington and York counties, officials also introduced the education effort that will include advertising, direct mail, a Web site at www.scvotes.org and an SCVotes Tour bus that will take demonstration machines to festivals, events and other public venues between now and November 2.
The demonstration machines on the tour bus include an SCFun Ballot, where voters can vote for their favorite vacation spot, barbecue sauce, iced tea, state college football team, NASCAR driver and “fair food.” Those votes will be tallied and reported throughout the fall.
For more information on tour stops, demonstration locations or other questions about voting, visit www.scvotes.org or call your county election commission.