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South Carolina Election Commission in Action — A Brief History

Four months to select the ES&S electronic voting system.
Three months remain to deploy it, train staff, educate voters, and prepare for the election.

April 2
The SC State Election Commission requests bids for a statewide system to be in effect by 2006. County councils protest the State Election Commission's decision to dictate the voting machines used by all counties.(Read article.)

The county could be forced to accept another voting system by 2006, Bailey [Herb Bailey, chairman of the Georgetown County Election Commission] said.

If the commission forces the county to change systems, the county's current voting machines will be sold at a loss to "whoever will buy them," Bailey said.

"The State Election Commission is proceeding," Bailey said.

April 14
South Carolina accepts ES&S' bid to outfit fourteen counties in the state with electronic voting machines for the November 2004 election.

April 25
An in-state bidder, Palmetto Unilect, contests the award. State legislators question the legality of the State Election Commission's actions. (Read article.)

The complaint was filed Friday by Palmetto Unilect and alleges four violations by the commission — including a potential conflict of interest between commission director Marci Andino and Election Systems and Software.

Sen. Jake Knotts, R-Lexington, said he is considering calling for an official investigation into the contract award.

“I am looking at the evidence provided by this company right now, and by Tuesday I’ll decide if I want to call for an investigation,” Knotts said. “I’ll say this, something’s not right over there.”

Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, and Sen. Greg Gregory, R-Lancaster, also are looking into the contract award, expressing concern about the quality of the company’s machines and the fact that an out-of-state company was given preference over an in-state competitor.

Knotts and Gregory also have asked S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster for an opinion on the legality of forcing local election commissions to use one uniform system. The state has five electronic systems at work now, as well as optical scans and punch cards.

May 13
The protest continues. (Read article.)

Palmetto Unilect also alleges that the winning bidder was involved with major ethical and technical violations in several states; and that Election Commission executive director Marci Andino has a conflict of interest since she worked at Unisys while it was a subcontractor for ES&S.

... Marc Manos, a Columbia lawyer representing Palmetto Unilect, said Andino's past employment doesn't violate state ethics laws, but fundamental fairness would dictate that a new round of bids was as a wise way to spend the state's money.

May 17
VotersUnite! contacts John West, chairman of the SC State Election Commission, sends him a copy of "Myth Breakers," and informs him of:

- The ES&S audit bug found in Miami-Dade County, Florida.
- The uncertified software ES&S installed in Indiana.
- The impossibility of DREs complying with SC recount laws.
- The advantages of the AutoMark ballot-marking device.

May 27
It was determined that the initial bid by ES&S was deflated, so the state's chief procurement officer decides to open a new round of bids. Marci Andino is concerned about the impact the delay will have on a November deployment. (Read article.)

The winning bid by Election Systems and Software Inc. was flawed because it failed to provide fixed prices for some equipment and services for the full seven years of the contact, said Mike Spicer, the state’s chief officer in charge of buying computers and other high-tech gear.

If the company had followed the state’s request and included all items in its bid, the $35.5 million bid “could easily exceed” a $36 million cap set by the S.C. Election Commission, Spicer wrote.

... Marci Andino, executive director of the S.C. Election Commission, said further appeals will make it impossible to have new equipment at the polls by Nov. 3.

July 14
South Carolina Election Commission is embroiled in ethics controversies. (Read article.)

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Robert Stewart said his organization had begun an official investigation into alleged improprieties at the commission.

"What's the hurry?" said network Director Brett Bursey. "The commission's rush to spend this money on the highest tech appliances seems to be driven by the vendors and the Election Commission's power to spend the $48 million as they choose."

... Last week, two state legislators asked for an official investigation into claims that improprieties took place within the commission, taking aim directly at election commission Director Marci Andino.

... [State Rep. Joe] Neal met with state Attorney General Henry McMaster to seek help in stopping the award process. Neal asked McMaster to issue an official opinion on the federal regulation, and if he agreed with their finding, to step in and halt the awarding of the contract.

"We are being asked to trust our vote to a computer system purchased and developed by people who are under an ethics investigation," Bursey [Brett Bursey South Carolina Progressive Network Director] said. "At this point, I'm not sure if I have more concern about the computers or the people involved in buying them."

July 16
A constituent and member of the League of Women Voters in South Carolina, armed with information from Barbara Simons and VotersUnite!, speaks to the SC State Election Commission, pointing out, among other things:

- The need for open source code.
- Lengthy set-up time required for the iVotronic.
- Flawed certification process.
- Need for a voter-verified paper ballot to ensure accuracy and allow for recounts.
- Ability of SC to still file a waiver with the Election Assistance Commission so the purchase and deployment would not be rushed.

July 19
The State Election Commission selected ES&S iVotronics again, and lawmakers ask the state attorney general for an investigation. (Read article.)

That's the same company that won the work in April. But the company's bid was challenged and later thrown out because it did not commit to a fixed price on all of the work.

Sen. Jake Knotts, of West Columbia, said he is not surprised Election Systems won the work. He said Andino had ties to the company and has asked for a State Law Enforcement Division investigation of how proposals were handled in the earlier bid process.

The competitors have 16 days to protest the decision. If no protest is lodged, the machines will be shipped. (Read article.)

South Carolina counties receiving the new machines will have less than three months to install the machines, learn how to use them, teach poll workers and voters how to use them, and prepare for the election.

The machines should have arrived in the counties before June, allowing local officials to give them a trial run during the party primaries, Hemphill [York County Elections Director Wanda Hemphill] said.

But it wasn't to be.

July 19
Electronic Frontier Foundation sends a letter to South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster. (Read letter.)

July 26
VotersUnite! sends a letter to Mr. McMaster. (Read letter.)

News stories make it rapidly apparent that
electronic voting is not reliable, accurate, or secure.
Any one who claims otherwise is either ignorant or deceptive.
~ Joseph Holder

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