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Vote Fiasco Brewing?

Punch-cards to be used again in 11 S.C. counties?

South Carolina seems to be headed for a no-win situation on the credibility of the statewide vote count in the Nov. 2 election. If the state Election Commission gets clearance to put electronic touch-screen voting machines in the S.C. counties that don't already have them, those machines won't create a paper record of the voting for recount or vote-verification purposes.

In possible violation of at least the spirit of federal law, the commission decided earlier this year not to buy machines of that type because they're more expensive than machines that create only an electronic record of the vote tally. The S.C. Progressive Network, a voter-education alliance, this week asked S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster to bar the commission from buying no-paper machines, with a ruling expected as early as next week.

Failure to modernize this year would force folks in 11 S.C. counties to vote Nov. 2 on punch cards tallied on 1960s-era mainframe computers. As the nation learned in Florida in 2000, punch-card voting creates an unacceptably high percentage of spoiled ballots. Sometimes, a push of the stylus doesn't detach the paper segment - the chad - from the ballot, rendering it invalid. And the system allows voters no way to correct candidate choices made in error.

Better to risk such problems in South Carolina, however, than to introduce technology with problems of its own. McMaster should order the commission not to buy the machines, and take a more thoughtful run at the problem next year.


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