Voting rights groups say Election Day problems with malfunctioning machines and long lines show the need for South Carolina to upgrade its 14-year-old voting machines.
The ACLU of South Carolina sent a letter to the state Elections Commission last week outlining their concerns about reports that some voters waited in line more than three hours while others complained that improperly-calibrated machines apparently changed their vote.
“We conclude that the voting machines currently in use are no longer reliable and must be replaced,” the letter co-signed by legal director Susan Dunn and SC Progressive Network director Brett Bursey states.
South Carolina has used the same voting machines since 2004. The state Election Commission has begun saving money to buy upgraded machines, but estimates it could cost up to $60 million to replace very precinct. The ACLU has said the new machines should print a confirmation — or “paper trail” — to help record challenged votes. Only four other states use the entirely electronic voting method.
ACLU of SC executive director Shaundra Scott said poll volunteers should also be better trained on how to deal with large turnout. She noted her own aunt was among those who waited nearly four hours to cast their ballot at a John’s Island precinct last week.
“She tried to go to St. John’s High School three different times,” Scott said. “The third time was when she decided to stay and waited three hours, 48 minutes.”
Charleston County election officials said not enough working machines and more than 200 poll volunteers who did not show up county-wide helped cause the long waits.
Scott said the long lines could effectively disenfranchise those voters who are unable to wait so long in line due to their job or health.
The Election Commission has requested $60 million in next year’s budget to help upgrade the machines.