New SC Voting System
The state of South Carolina announced this week the award of a contract for a new statewide voting system. Throughout the process, P&A advocated for a system that would allow people with disabilities to vote independently and privately. On multiple occasion, P&A provided written and oral testimony explaining the importance of accessibility to decision makers. 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. A representative from P&A served as a resource on accessibility matters, joining a group of subject matter experts advising the selection panel including state and private cybersecurity experts, experts on accessible technology, national voting system technology consultants, and county and state election administrators. P&A is excited that this machine will offer greater accessibility than our previous one and allow every South Carolinian to vote independently using the same equipment.
The ExpressVote offers multiple accessibility features for people with disabilities allowing voters to navigate the ballot and make selections using a touchscreen ballot with options such as high contrast and text enlargement or an audio ballot which is always running. Every machine has a head phone jack and there is an attached audio-tactile keypad which offers navigation, volume, and speed control. In addition, the machine has a port for a sip and puff or two position rocker switch. After verifying selections, voters will print their paper ballot. Voters will then have the opportunity to review the paper ballot, either visually or audibly by re-inserting the ballot into the machine, before inserting the paper into a separate 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.