South Carolina Safe Elections Group Advocates for Election Transparency

Grassroots organization SCSE (South Carolina Safe Elections) filed a lawsuit against eight counties and South Carolina’s state election commission.

This lawsuit was filed for access to Cast Vote Records (CVRs), which are digital records showing the votes recorded for each ballot during an election. Access to CVRs is already available in 27 states and Washington D.C.

Controversy Surrounds Release of Voting System Records in South Carolina

SCSE has repeatedly been denied access to CVRs through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests since January 2022.

South Carolina state authorities have stated they cannot provide the CVRs, due to concerns about Personally Identifiable Information (PII) on the ballots or the possibility of associating a ballot with a specific voter.

SCSE argues there’s no substantial evidence supporting these claims and such issues can be addressed through appropriate customization and redaction of the reports.

The root of the issue dates back to August 2020, when Marci Andino, the executive director of the South Carolina Election Commission (SEC), wrote a letter to the state’s Attorney General’s (AG’s) office.

Andino was requesting that CVRs not be made public, due to PII concerns. The AG’s office based its decision on the SEC’s information and decided against releasing the records to the public.

In response to SCSE’s request, nine legislators wrote a letter to the AG’s office in the summer of 2022, asking for a reconsideration of their decision.

However, the AG’s office reaffirmed its original decision and indicated the only way to address the issue would be through court proceedings.

Legal Proceedings Delayed as SCSE Fights for Access to Election Data

The SCSE group has been involved in legal battles over election data from the 2020 elections. After successfully filing a request to prevent this data from being destroyed, they are currently facing lengthy and costly legal proceedings.

In August the SCSE filed a lawsuit of the previous year, which is expected to be heard in court around August/September of 2023.

Adding to their legal challenges, the defendants are now countersuing SCSE in an attempt to prohibit them from submitting any future FOIA requests related to the 2020 election.

The SCSE indeed provides a unique perspective on voting. According to Section II, Article 1, votes are to be cast secretly, but not counted in secret.

The group argues the existing voting system, which they refer to as the “black box” method, contravenes this constitutional requirement.

Once a voter submits their ballot into the tabulation machine, there’s no visibility into how their vote is counted, creating a level of secrecy in the counting process which, SCSE contends, is constitutionally impermissible.