Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Earlier this week, WLTX reported about a software glitch Richland County had with its voting machines.
Now, the Richland County election director and South Carolina State Election Commission are pushing to replace every voting machine across the state.
State Election Commission Spokesman Chris Whitmire said the state implemented the same voting infrastructure in every county.
“We have a uniform statewide voting system, so, whichever county you're voting in you're going to vote on the same equipment,” Whitmire said.
The Election Commission argues that having the same technology in every precinct across the state makes it easier for election officials and voters, because they don’t have to adjust to a new process for individual areas.
But the machines, purchased from Nebraska-based Election Systems and Software, are now 14-years-old.
“Over time, counties may have replaced equipment, added equipment, but by and large it’s the same voting system and equipment that was purchased in 2004,” Whitmire told WLTX.
The purchase was in response to the Help America Vote Act passed in Washington in the early 2000s because of the contested 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
Florida’s problem counting so-called ‘hanging chads’ from punch-card ballots led Washington politicians to require replacements.
South Carolina was one of the states using the same kind of system. So, in 2004, they used federal funds from the Act to buy the machines currently in use.
“The voting system is old, it's approaching the end of its life, it needs to be replaced. And that's our plan, to replace it before the 2020 general election. Now, with that said, we haven't seen any widespread pervasive issues with the voting system,” Whitmire said at Commission headquarters.
Earlier this week, Richland County said a problem with its software was causing the machines to shut off. However, after working with the vendor, they acquired new personal electronic ballot cards that they say fixed the problem.
In general, the machines implemented statewide were expected to have a 15-year life of service.
They’re now entering year 14, according to Whitmire.
To replace the system would cost an estimated $75 million dollars. So far, the Election Commission has collected $15 million over seven years, with $6 million coming from federal funds and the other $9 million from state coffers.
It means means they'll need $60 million more from the state to replace the infrastructure by 2020.
“We've made the General Assembly well aware of the need to replace this voting system. And, the General Assembly comes back in January and we look forward to hearing what the General Assembly has to say about it,” Whitmire said.
Rising maintenance costs, harder to find replacement parts, voter expectations of modern technology and security concerns are the main reason the Commission recommends a replacement.
“Any new system that the state acquires will have a paper record of the voter's voted ballot. That allows for hand recounts of voter's voted ballots to ensure the accuracy of the elections,” Whitmire said.
But despite the age, Whitmire still is confident in the machines' integrity for this year.
“There's no evidence that the State Election Commission has ever been hacked or any election has been interfered with or compromised by any outside entity,” Whitmire assured.
So as votes are tallied in the next few weeks, he hopes the days of South Carolina’s machines are numbered.