Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The Director of Richland County elections is telling voters not to worry after an electronic malfunction caused headaches earlier this month.
As absentee votes are cast this month, they're being cast on new personal electronic ballot (PEB) cards after a technical issue required all the cards to be replaced.
Richland County Elections Director Rokey Suleman explained the problem.
“We noticed a situation where we were putting our personal electronic ballots into the machines to activate the machines and the machines were shutting down,” Suleman explained on Monday.
The cards tell the machines what elections to pull up for voters. Suleman said they are programed ahead of time and then inserted into the machines before elections.
After discovering the issue, Richland County staff worked with the vendors for a few days to try and find a solution to the software issue.
“We determined there was probably a hardware issue with those cartridges, so we received new cartridges from the vendor and programed those instead to make sure that they all work. We've tested them all and they're all working properly and there's going to be no problems on election day,” Suleman assured.
The old cartridges were 14-years old and Suleman said this is the first year they've had an issue. But, he warned that this could happen again and could become more frequent.
“This is just another example of the aging voting equipment. Whereas the equipment gets older, we're going to start seeing more mechanical issues, more hardware issues, some more software issues, that's why it's really important that we try to transition to new voting equipment as quickly as possible,” Suleman said.
As questions about election integrity swirl nationally, Suleman has a suggestion for where the state should go.
“My preference is that voters are voting on a paper ballot that they mark and it's inserted into a machine that counts the ballot. That way, we can go back after the election and do a post-election audit that is independent of the machine to make sure the machine tabulates the paper votes properly,” Suleman told WLTX.
At the moment, there is no paper-record of votes cast in Richland County. Meaning, there is no way to independently confirm results separate from the technology that already exists and is in use.
Suleman said he hopes before the next election in 2020 there is new voting infrastructure in place.
In the meantime, he's confident this year's election is running smoothly.
Election day is November 6, 2018. Polls are open from 7am to 7pm.