South Carolina

York County will use new statewide voting system next month. Here’s what to know

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story misstated whether the voting machines are connected to the Internet. The machines are not connected to the Internet. This story has been updated.

South Carolina is bringing back the paper ballot. And York County voters will begin using the state’s new voting system for the first time next month.

The state spent about $51 million to implement the new Election Systems and Software ExpressVote voting system, which combines a touch-screen and a paper ballot.

Every county will use the new machines by 2020. Aiken County voters will be the first in the state to use the system in a special election on Oct. 1, said Beth Covington, spokesperson for the York County Office of Voter Registration and Elections.

Rock Hill voters will be the second in the state to use the system. But Rock Hill will be the first contested elections on Oct. 15 for the city council race, Covington said.

In the Rock Hill City Hall Rotunda, Covington on Wednesday showed voters how to use the ExpressVote machines, which will replace the paperless system implemented in 2004.

Drusilla Ridgell of Rock Hill tested the new machines Wednesday. She said the machines were self-explanatory and she liked that the machines offered an option to write in a candidate.

“The directions are great on it,” Ridgell said. “Everything is pointed out, so I think it will be fairly easy for the young ones that are going to vote, plus the older ones, too.”

The system uses both a touch-screen, like the previous voting machines, and a paper ballot. Voters make their selections on the screen and after verifying their selections, a paper ballot is printed. Voters then submit the paper ballot into a scanner, which takes a digital picture and collects a tally. The paper ballots are saved in a ballot box for auditing and verification of results.

“The system that we had, like anything mechanical, had a time limit,” Covington said. “We knew when we purchased that system, as a state, in 2004, it was a 15-year limit. And it had hit its limit.”

Covington said the old system was starting to have screen issues and it was hard to find replacement parts for the machines.

“We didn’t have some kind of hacking incident that caused trouble and now we have to do something about,” Covington said.

She said the machines are not vulnerable to hacking because they are not connected to the Internet.

She said the new machines also can better accommodate the disabled and elderly by adjusting type size or providing audio.

The ExpressVote system was unanimously chosen by a five-person panel of members of the South Carolina Elections Commission, according to a press release from the Elections Commission. The panel considered seven proposals, including both hand-marked and ballot-marking systems, from three voting systems providers.

Want to go?

York County is holding more demonstrations of the ExpressVote system:

  • Oct. 3 — 4-7 p.m., York County Government Center, 6 S. Congress St., York.

  • Oct. 26 — 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Tega Cay Fall Festival, Philip T. Glennon Community Center, 15083 Molokai Drive, Tega Cay.

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Cailyn Derickson is a city government and politics reporter for The Herald, covering York, Chester and Lancaster counties. Cailyn graduated from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has previously worked at The Pilot and The News and Observer.