South Carolina voting machine failure underscores need for swift federal action for voting security

Problems with electronic voting machines in today’s Republican South Carolina presidential primary and reports that voters were being turned away from the polls as a result of those problems underscore the need for Congress to move swiftly to provide states with funding to have emergency paper ballots on hand in the event of a machine failure and to replace paperless voting systems so that meaningful recounts and audits can occur.

“Voters are understandably outraged that in this important primary election they could not exercise their right to vote because of the machine malfunctions,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause. “This was a preventable and foreseeable crisis. Congress and state election officials must move fast to fix this problem by the general election in November.”

Due to a programming error, the electronic iVotronic voting machines were reportedly not working properly today in Horry County, home of Myrtle Beach. Poll workers were handing out paper ballots in the affected precincts, but some of the precincts reportedly ran out of paper ballots and were sending voters to other precincts to cast provisional ballots. A spokesman from the South Carolina Election Commission said that while 80 percent of the precincts were affected in Horry County, only 12 to 15 precincts had electronic voting machines that were all inoperable for at least part of the day. The iVotronic voting machines used in South Carolina were the same manufacturer and make as the ones used in Florida, although the model was different.

Common Cause is pushing for emergency legislation that would provide funding for the 20 states, including South Carolina, to print up emergency paper ballots and to replace paperless voting systems like the iVotronics machines, which can’t be subject to a meaningful recount or audit. The Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Act of 2008 (HR 5036), introduced Thursday, is a critical first step in addressing what could be nothing short of a national emergency around the presidential election.

“Paper never fails to boot up” said Duncan Buell, author of a white paper detailing problems with the iVotronics voting machine. “We need to replace the system we have here in South Carolina and we definitely need to have emergency paper ballots on hand in case of machine failures next week.”