SC election officials fill some funding gaps ahead of General Election, need more money for vote security

A voter selects an "I Voted" sticker after submitting their ballot at an early voting location,...
A voter selects an "I Voted" sticker after submitting their ballot at an early voting location, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Lowell, Mass.(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Updated: Oct. 30, 2020 at 3:07 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - State election officials say they still need thousands of dollars to complete the paper-based statewide voting system and ensure its security and accuracy for future elections.

In Sept. 2019, the State Election Commission asked lawmakers to approve more than $9 million in additional funds. The money would pay for approximately $1 million to establish a statewide risk-limiting audits program and improve the security of the state’s critical election infrastructure.

“Since 2010, South Carolina has used a comprehensive audit program that analyzed electronic audit data produced by the statewide voting system. With the implementation of a paper based system, new auditing methods are required. A paper-based voting system adds an important layer of security and bolsters public confidence in the election process. The paper record produced by the new system can be audited to verify the results of the election as tabulated by the ballot scanners. However, this layer of security cannot be fully realized without a program in place to conduct audits of the paper ballots,” the commission’s budget plan stated.

The document gave a stern warning about what this gap in funding could mean for the security of future elections.

“If the funds are not received for security and auditing, the agency would be unable to implement a robust security and auditing program, errors in the ballot tabulation process could go undetected and inaccurate election results could be certified, elections could be overturned, and voters could lose confidence in the integrity of the election process in South Carolina,” the budget plan stated.

This request has now been renewed for the next fiscal year, but in the meantime, the commission is able to do a pilot of third-party results verification for three counties in the General Election on Nov. 3rd.

“There’s two things we have to do as election officials. One is get it right, meaning count all the votes and count it accurately and completely. And the other is ensure voters trust that it’s right. And transparency is one thing that does that and I hope voters knowing all that we put toward insulating our voting system from any outside bad actors would give them that confidence,” SEC Director of Public Information Chris Whitmire said.

Election officials say they were able to pay for other things they had originally requested, like more precinct scanners and tabulators, using some COVID and CARES Act funding related to the pandemic.

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