SC Election Commission works to update electronic poll books

Updated: Sep. 24, 2020 at 11:29 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The S.C. Election Commission will be rolling out new state-wide electronic poll books, just in time for the November Election.

The current electronic poll book situation has not been updated in over 10 years, and some poll locations are still using paper books.

Chris Whitmire, a spokesperson for the Election Commission, said voters could expect a much more efficient and quicker process with the new e-poll book system.

" This makes [voting] a very smooth process and virtually eliminates the possibility for error in voters getting the correct ballot style," Whitmire said. “It goes directly into protecting the integrity of the election.”

The technology is used to look up voters at polling places, determine which ballot a voter should receive, and to record their participation in the election.

State election officials said they recently received $5 million in emergency COVID funding to complete the amount needed to implement this project. According to Whitmire, the total cost of the project is approximately $9.5 million.

“This process goes back really more than about two years ago when we were putting out a [request for proposal] for the new voting system,” Whitmire said. “We said we wanted a new voting system, but we also want a new state-wide electronic poll book system to go with it.”

After issuing a budget request for the new e-poll book situation, delays caused by the pandemic put the funding for the project on pause. Whitmire said that they were able to complete the funding request after reaching out to Gov. Henry McMaster’s office.

Charleston County was able to pilot the electronic poll books in 2018 for two elections. Joseph Debney, the executive director of the Board of Elections and Voter Registration, says it was successful and he is looking forward to receiving 428 new e-poll books.

“We can eliminate some of the paper that we need to use and make it that much more effective and efficient so people can check into that polling location, quicker,” Debney said. “We will be able to pull up the voter’s ballot style on the voting machine accurately every time and eliminate some challenge ballots.”

Berkeley County has been told they will receive 205 e-poll Books. Although they have not used them before, the Director of Elections and Voter Registration said he is looking forward to receiving them and streamlining the check-in process for voters and poll workers.

Dorchester County has not yet responded to a request for information on their e-poll books.

The state has been working on the plan to distribute the equipment and train people on how to use it, in time for Nov. 3.

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