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McMaster gives new voting system green light


Associated Press   05 August 2004

COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina's new touch-screen voting machines meet federal requirements, the state attorney general says, despite complaints from a group that promotes voter education and participation.

The South Carolina Progressive Network had asked Attorney General Henry McMaster to stop the State Election Commission from buying the machines. The group argued the machines do not provide a voter proof on paper that her vote was cast the way she intended.

In an opinion released Thursday, McMaster said the Help America Vote Act of 2002 does not require a receipt for the voter's review and verification.

But the state's new machines give voters a chance to review all of their ballot choices and make changes before finalizing their votes, he said.

"I'm disappointed the attorney general doesn't agree on the need to verify votes," said Brett Bursey, director of the South Carolina Progressive Network.

Bursey said thousands of votes are lost or tossed out because machines fail to register them for various reason such as an error filling out the ballet. "If the machine says you didn't vote, you didn't vote," he says.

That's why voters need to need to be able to tell immediately whether their votes were cast, not hope it makes the count at the end of the day, Bursey said.

Bursey said the new voting machines don't address this problem.

"I think that the situation is going to have to be addressed by legislation at this point, either federal or state," Bursey said.

State Rep. Joe Neal, D-Hopkins and vice chairman of the Progressive Network, is expected to file a bill to address the issue.

The State Election Commission announced Wednesday it had signed a contract Election Systems and Software for new voting machines in 16 counties.

Commission director Marci Andino said the state had to pick a vendor quickly so counties can begin receiving their equipment by mid-August and complete training.

The state is working to replace punch card equipment similar to the machines used in Florida that led problems during the 2000 presidential election. The state stands to lose $2 million in federal money if it fails to replace the old machines by the November election.

The network wanted McMaster to sue to halt the process, Neal said.

The new machines also will allow blind or vision-impaired voters to cast ballots for the first time without a helper in the voting booth with them.

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