AP NEWS

Budget writers want more oversight of new voting machines

February 22, 2019

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Budget writers in the South Carolina House don’t want the State Election Commission to have the final decision on choosing the state’s new voting machines.

The House Ways and Means committee agreed to transfer $40 million that could be used to buy new voting machines from the Election Commission to another agency to hold.

Lawmakers told The State newspaper they set the money aside so they can have time to pass a resolution that would give the State Fiscal Accountability Authority the final say on which machines to buy. The authority is made up of the governor, treasurer, comptroller general and the leaders of the state House and Senate budget committees.

The deadline for bids on providing the new voting machines is March 14, but lawmakers said they will consider extending the time.

“We feel like there needs to be some more oversight and the process needs to be a little bit more open,” said Republican state Rep. Kirkman Finlay of Columbia. “A lot of vendors, a lot of individuals, a lot of groups have contacted us and felt it was moving a little too quickly. With something like voting machines, we need to make sure everybody is included and everybody gets a shot at it.”

Some members of the committee also think an independent review of the decision is needed because of Election Commission director Marci Andino’s relationship with one of the companies being considered.

Andino spent a decade advising Nebraska-based Election Systems and Software and the company has paid nearly $20,000 for her expenses. Andino cleared the work with the State Ethics Commission and quit the advisory board last year before the state started advertising for bids for the new machines.

“We’re focusing on the big picture, keeping our eyes on the goal (of replacing the machines). This doesn’t change that,” State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said.

The Election Commission wants to replace all 13,000 touchscreen voting machines by the 2020 elections to machines that include recording votes on paper to protect against hacking. The commission asked for $60 million. The House budget writers have offered $40 million for the 2019-2020 spending plan.

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Information from: The State, http://www.thestate.com