The state of South Carolina this week announced the award of a contract for a new statewide voting system. After a lengthy evaluation of numerous proposals, an evaluation panel unanimously selected the Election Systems and Software (ES&S) ExpressVote voting system. The new paper-based system will replace the state’s aging paperless system that has been in place since 2004.
“This is an exciting day for the future of elections in South Carolina,” said Marci Andino, Executive Director of the State Election Commission. “This system will not only provide voters with a dependable system for years to come, but it will also greatly enhance the security and resilience of our election process.” Andino continued, “We will now be able to audit paper ballots to verify results. This is a significant measure that will go a long way in providing voters and election officials the assurance that every vote is counted just as the voter intended.”
The ExpressVote ballot-marking device provides voters with the familiarity of a touchscreen combined with the security of a paper ballot. Voters will navigate the ballot and make selections using a touchscreen. After verifying selections, voters will print their paper ballot. Voters will then have the opportunity to review the paper ballot before inserting it into a scanner. The scanner counts the votes, and the paper ballot is automatically dropped into a ballot box. Votes are recorded on the scanner, and the paper ballots are saved for auditing and verification of results.
The award was made after a six-month procurement process overseen by the S.C. Department of Administration and the State Fiscal Accountability Authority. An evaluation panel made up of the five members of the State Election Commission considered a total of seven proposals including both hand-marked and ballot-marking systems from three voting system providers.
“Our job was to find the best system out there for the voters of South Carolina,” said John Wells, Chairman of the State Election Commission. “We were looking for a system that is secure, accurate, accessible, auditable, transparent, reliable and easy for poll managers and voters to use. Over the course of our six-week review, we read the proposals, participated in the demonstrations, and heard from industry experts. In the end, one clearly stood out above the rest.”
The panel was advised by state and private cybersecurity experts, advocates for voters with disabilities, experts on accessible technology, national voting system technology consultants, and county and state election administrators. After deliberation and independent scoring by panel members, the panel unanimously selected the ExpressVote voting system as being the most advantageous to the voters of South Carolina.
The cost of the system is approximately $51 million. The system will be implemented this year and be used to conduct all elections after January 1, 2020.
For more on South Carolina’s new statewide voting system, visit https://www.scvotes.org/new-voting-system-faqs.