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New ExpressVote machines ready to use

Mayesville election Nov. 5 will be 1st in Sumter to use them

BY KAYLA ROBINS
kayla@theitem.com
Posted 10/5/19

The Mayesville mayor cast her ballot Friday on a new voting machine being introduced in Sumter County and statewide, but instead of her name, what appeared was a decision between vinegar- or mustard-based barbecue sauce.

Election Systems and …

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New ExpressVote machines ready to use

Mayesville election Nov. 5 will be 1st in Sumter to use them

Posted

The Mayesville mayor cast her ballot Friday on a new voting machine being introduced in Sumter County and statewide, but instead of her name, what appeared was a decision between vinegar- or mustard-based barbecue sauce.

Election Systems and Software's ExpressVote system is a paper-based machine that is replacing the state's aging paperless system that had been in place since 2004. About four months after the state announced the changeover, Sumter County election officials demonstrated the process and introduced the new system to the county election commission Friday morning. With Mayesville's general election on Nov. 5 being the first in Sumter County to put the new machines to action, the incumbent mayor who is seeking re-election also attended the demonstration.

"It's fast, it's easy, and it's secure," said Pat Jefferson, director of Sumter County Voter Registration and Elections. "The previous machines had an issue that sometimes they would freeze, and I think that was because they were old machines."

The new ExpressVote machines are new, evidenced by the plastic still being on the screens Friday. Like the old machines, the new ones still employ a touchscreen but are combined with a paper ballot receipt.

After showing their voter registration card or ID, voters are given a blank ballot card to insert into the first of two machines. Voters will then navigate their ballot and choose selections on the touchscreen, as they did before.

Jefferson showed headphones, a pen-like device and a set of buttons similar to a control panel people can use in the case of hearing, reading or textile impairments.

There are still options to write in candidates, and choosing more than allowed results in an over-vote that is recorded.

Once finished voting on the touchscreen - commissioners practiced Friday with the fun sample ballot questions - a paper ballot is printed out for each voter with his or her choices. Voters are then to review the ballot to ensure the answers are to their choosing before inserting it into the second machine, a scanner.

The scanner records the votes and automatically drops the receipt into a ballot box. Votes are recorded on the scanner's computer, and the paper ballots are saved within the secured and locked scanner for auditing and to verify the results.

"It's a check-and-balance system we have now that we didn't have at one time," Jefferson said.

Voters can still choose to fill out a paper ballot if they do not want to use the touchscreen. The larger, Scantron-style ballot skips the ExpressVote machine and is inserted directly into the scanner/ballot box machine, and it does not matter what side faces up, Jefferson said.

The award to ES&S for its ExpressVote machines to be installed in all 46 counties was approved after a six-month procurement process overseen by the S.C. Department of Administration and the State Fiscal Accountability Authority. According to the State Election Commission, 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.

"We will now be able to audit paper ballots to verify results," said Marci Andino, executive director of the State Election Commission. "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."

Sumter's Jefferson said Sumter County has 291 ExpressVote machines to be placed throughout 63 precincts.

One of those precincts is in Mayesville, where those who live within town limits have a general election on Nov. 5. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Two-term Mayor Jereleen Hollimon-Miller is seeking re-election and is facing challenger George Gibson for the seat, while incumbents Nancy Williams and Cynthia Massingill and challenger Eric Jackson will vie for the first- and second-most votes for town council seats 1 and 2.

Absentee voting opened Friday. Ballots can be cast until the Monday before the general election at the county voter registration office.

She said poll managers and workers will each be trained on how to use the machines before they oversee an election. Her office has a machine available for residents to practice. The office is open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the old Sumter courthouse at 141 N. Main St.

They will also take the machines out to community events to let people get accustomed to them. Call (803) 436-2310, (803) 436-2311, (803) 436-2312 or (803) 436-2313 to arrange a demonstration session.