Voting groups call for investigation of South Carolina voting systems after unexpected primary results

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  • Dale Eisman

Mary Boyle, Common Cause

In light of questions raised around results of the South Carolina Democratic Party primary race for US Senate, Common Cause and Voter Action request the South Carolina State Elections Commission take immediate steps to launch an investigation of the state’s voting systems, as well as preserve voting data for a thorough investigation.

The reported results last week of the South Carolina Democratic primary election for the US Senate have raised questions among voters and observers as to whether the state’s electronic voting system malfunctioned or was intentionally hacked. Those who believe there may have been voting system malfunctions that led to unusual results point to the fact that disparities exist between the precinct-based count and the absentee ballot count, the latter of which involves the use of a paper ballot optical scan system.

As organizations dedicated to voting system integrity, Common Cause and Voter Action request that the South Carolina State Elections Commission immediately take the following actions:

– Move to preserve all of the data stored in the South Carolina Voting system until there can be a complete investigation to resolve any questions as to whether computer software glitches, hardware problems, or hacking may have impacted the outcome of last Tuesday’s election.

– Suspend the June 22 runoff between GOP gubernatorial candidates immediately and commence a forensic investigation of the voting systems.

Programming glitches and errors which lead to miscounts are unfortunately all too common. When there is a paper ballot which proves voter intent, a simple recount of the paper ballots can rule out a computer counting glitch or reveal that one may have caused a miscount in the final tally. However, when there is no paper ballot to establish the vote count definitively, ruling out a computer glitch or even more nefarious hacking is much more difficult. Despite the difficulty, a forensic investigation into the voting systems should commence and all evidence should be preserved.

Federal law requires that jurisdictions conducting a federal election preserve all voting records for 22 months after an election. The US Justice Department states that this requirement includes the preservation of all physical ballots. In states using electronic voting machines, jurisdictions must preserve the data collected inside the machines. Therefore the State Election Commission must impound the machines and secure without disruption the following critical components and data:

– The flash memory card from each voting machine which must include all ballot definition files, cast vote records, audit logs and event logs.

– The data in the Election Management System database and all database backups.

South Carolina is scheduled to conduct a statewide run-off election on June 22 using these same machines. Preparation for the run-off election will require election administrators to erase and re-program data crucial to an investigation of the primary, permanently eliminating the option of a forensic study.

Voters in South Carolina, as elsewhere, have a fundamental right to have their votes be properly counted and to have faith in the results of their elections. The promise of democracy demands no less.


Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest.

Voter Action is a national non-profit organization that seeks to ensure election integrity in the United States through legal advocacy, research, and public education.

Common Cause is a national nonpartisan organization with chapters in 35 states. Our mailing address is 1133 19th Street NW, 9th Floor, Washington, DC 20036.