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South Carolina leaders and voters demand state fix election system

State Election Commision Must Protect Voters by Ensuring that Votes are Cast and Counted Correctly

Today, Mt. Pleasant businessman Frank Heindel and former state Senator Phil Leventis filed a lawsuit against the commissioners and executive director of the South Carolina State Election Commission (SEC) demanding that they protect the voters of South Carolina by ensuring that votes are recorded and counted accurately. South Carolina’s voting machines have been in use since 2006. They are at the end of their lifespan, cannot be meaningfully audited, and are vulnerable to well-documented hacking strategies.

“Over the last decade, I have devoted considerable time, money, and effort to working to secure South Carolina’s elections. In 2007, I read a report from the Ohio Secretary of State finding that the same machines used in South Carolina were insecure,” said Heindel.  “After years of research, I believe that the reliability of South Carolina’s election system is deeply compromised by the risk of hacking. South Carolina voters deserve complete confidence that their votes will be recorded and counted. We do not have that confidence. We are filing this lawsuit today to get that confidence.”

The lawsuit claims that the current system undermines South Carolinians’ right to vote in violation of the U.S. Constitution, and asks the court to order the SEC to address these issues promptly. The Constitution ensures the right to vote, including the right to cast an effective ballot–that is, to have your vote recorded and counted accurately. The SEC has maintained an obsolete, insecure voting system that fails to ensure that South Carolinians have a reliable system for counting their.

In 2016, an SEC report found that “[e]quipment issues and breakdowns are becoming more frequent. As a result, carrying out our mission and reflect[ing] the will of the electorate has become complicated and challenging.” These  “equipment issues” and “breakdowns” have become an unconstitutional burden on Plaintiffs’ — and other South Carolinians’ — right to vote.

“I was in the Senate when the SEC purchased the iVotronic machines, and it was clear at the time that they could not be audited,” said Leventis, who represented the 35th District from 1980 to 2012. “Something could go wrong in counting our votes, and we wouldn’t even know.”

South Carolina is one of only five states in the country that relies on entirely paperless electronic voting machines statewide. In 2016, The General Assembly’s Joint Voting System Research Committee found that, “South Carolina’s next voting system must be secure, and instill confidence in the citizens that their votes will be counted, as they intended for them to be cast. A new voting system must include some type of audit function, or ‘paper trail,’ that would allow the voter to confirm his or her ballot, as it will be tabulated by the SEC.”

In March 2018, President Donald Trump and the U.S. Congress made $6 million available to South Carolina and $380 million in total to the states to secure election systems. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham has sponsored the Secure Elections Act, which would make an additional $386 million available. At the time, Graham said, “We are committed to defending and promoting confidence in American democracy by providing states with the resources they need to safeguard their election systems.”

Plaintiffs are represented by Nexsen Pruet, Protect Democracy, and Kramer Levin.

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Further details are available at Count Our Votes, a site dedicated to the litigation.