The SC Legislature’s Joint Voting System Research Committee held its first meeting on November 10, 2015 in Room 308 of the Gressette Building. After hearing from Marci Andino, the Executive Director, S. C. State Elections Commission, Katy Hubler, a Senior Policy Specialist with the Elections National Conference of State Legislatures, Matthew Masterson, a Commissioner with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, and Merle King, the Executive Director of The Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University, the Committee welcomed testimony from the public. The League of Women Voters of South Carolina was present and offered testimony from League member and USC Computer Science Professor Duncan Buell.
Last March I was general chair of the Election Verification Network’s annual conference. The general theme of the conference was exactly the topic you have today – current voting system technology is aging rapidly, and it must be replaced, and the choice of what to replace it with is difficult.
In one sense you (and we) in South Carolina have an advantage in that there are several jurisdictions that have just purchased, or are purchasing, or are developing new voting systems. At one of our sessions this past March we had election officials from Tallahassee (Leon County), Florida, Fairfax, Virginia, and Philadelphia describing their process for acquisition and the reasons for their choices.
There are yet more jurisdictions that have recently acquired systems, and I would encourage you to take advantage of their analysis prior to acquisition.
There are also two large jurisdictions that are developing their own systems. Los Angeles County is developing a system for use there, but it is not clear that a system would be ready for procurement within the time frame asked for in South Carolina. The system being developed in Austin, Texas, however, is likely to be available. The design of that system has been guided by Dana Debeauvoir, clerk of court in Travis County, and has had the input of some of the best industry and academic minds in hardware system design and in security. Importantly, that system provides a single ballot marking device for all voters, using commodity hardware for low cost, and a totally transparent and totally auditable trail to ensure accurate results and thus maintain voter confidence.
I would encourage you not to make decisions without looking at these reports and systems and without consulting those from around the country who have had to make similar decisions in the recent past.
Finally, I would encourage you to consider only those systems that are totally transparent and totally auditable. The marks the voter sees that indicate the voter’s choices should be the marks that are used to tally the votes. There should be no software that intervenes, no coding or hidden transformation that is not understandable by the voter. There should be a capability of a genuine recount, not merely the running of the same computer program on the same data. And the system should be simple to operate. In all my analysis of election data from South Carolina, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Texas, I have not seen fraud. But we have a very complicated system, and I have seen essentially all possible errors that could be made by tired and inexperienced poll workers at the end of a very long day. The system needs to be simple. A complicated system like the one we currently have is guaranteed to result in errors.
The video of the November 10, 2015 Committee Meeting can be found here. Marci Andino’s presentation starts at 3:30 in the video. Katy Hubler, a Senior Policy Specialist on Elections from the National Conference of State Legislatures, provides a history of voting technology, case studies from around the country, and potential funding options starting at 32:10. Matthew Masterson, a Commissioner with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), talks about what is the EAC and how they certify voting systems starting at 52:00. Merle King, the Executive Director of The Center for Election Systems Kennesaw State University, reflects on what was heard and what is happening in Georgia starting at 1:25:20. D Buell starts his comments just after 1:55:30.
The Joint Voting System Research Committee has been tasked to identify and evaluate current voting system technologies that meet the standards established by Title 7 of the 1976 Code. They shall issue a report, which shall include, but is not limited to, the following:
- An evaluation of each form of voting system technology considered by the committee, including costs, usability, reliability, accessibility, ability to conduct random audits of election results, and security matters related to each, as well as any possible solutions to address any concerns raised;
- Consideration of best practices established by the United States Election Assistance Commission; and
- An analysis as to which technology should be implemented in South Carolina. This analysis shall include costs to acquire and fully implement the recommended technology for a statewide uniform voting system. The analysis must include proposed milestones and success measures for implementation.
After submitting their report by Jan. 30, 2016, the committee shall be dissolved.