South Carolina’s new voting system will make its statewide debut Saturday

South Carolina’s new voting system will make its statewide debut Saturday
The state spent roughly $51 million on the new machines. (Source: WIS)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina election officials are gearing up for the first statewide use of the new voting system.

The state spent roughly $51 million on the new machines and they were tested in the Midlands back in November during Richland County's city council election.

Voters will still use a touchscreen machine to cast their votes, but there’s an extra step now. When you get to the polls, you’ll be handed a paper ballot that you have to insert into the voting machine. After you cast your vote, you’ll print your ballot and then take it to a separate machine that will scan it and officially count your vote.

Duncan Buell, a computer science and engineering professor at The University of South Carolina, has been analyzing data from the previous voting system since 2010. He’s also an election official for Richland County. Buell said the new voting system is better at protecting each vote because there’s now both a digital and physical copy.

“The ballot cards are stored so we do have a paper record after the fact finally. This is a good thing," said Buell.

The new voting system is much less complicated than the old one, according to Buell, which will make it easier for election officials to count votes. There’s also less hardware for them to keep track of.

“Roughly 150 scanners instead of 1,000 pieces of equipment to bring home,” said Buell.

Buell believes it's smart that South Carolina is testing this new system several times before the presidential election in November. He said Saturday will be the big test.

“It’s the first statewide test, very high visibility, everybody’s looking at us,” said Buell. “We just went through the meltdown in Iowa, which the people in my election verification community hope is a teachable moment to the nation about how not to use technology in elections. I would hope that we have learned and we are taking all the possible steps we should. We are working hard to make sure that we get this right.”

The new system shouldn’t take you any longer to cast your vote than the old system did. Buell also said Richland County officials will be required to hand count at least one precinct on Saturday night to make sure the new system is accurately counting votes.

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