Judge dismisses lawsuit claiming South Carolina's voting machines endanger voter rights

A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit claiming that South Carolina's antiquated voting machines infringed upon residents’ right to vote.

U.S. District Court Judge Michelle Childs said the machines could impose “some conceivable risk” to the state’s ability to accurately count votes, but the suit did not prove there was a “substantial” threat to the right to vote, The State reported


“A plaintiff...must do more than merely assert that there is some conceivable risk that she will be harmed on account of defendant’s actions,” wrote Childs, who is an appointee of former President Obama.

The South Carolina Election Commission said it was happy with the ruling. 

“It is important that South Carolina have a secure, reliable and accessible voting system,” commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said in a statement reported by the newspaper.

“The State Election Commission continues working toward its goal of replacing the current system by Jan. 1, 2020, with a system that features a paper record of each voter’s voted ballot.”

Former state Sen. Phil Leventis (D) and businessman Frank Heindel filed the suit in July with the support of the Protect Democracy group and the Nexsen Pruet law firm against the Election Commission and Executive Director Mari Andino. 

“Unfortunately, the court ruled on narrow technical grounds to dismiss our case, and no finding was made about voters’ constitutional rights to a secure voting system,” Project Democracy attorney Larry Schwartztol said, adding that the decision could be appealed. 

The suit claimed that the Palmetto State’s approximately 11,000 voting machines face a litany of issues, including breaking down, not leaving paper trails of cast ballots and other security issues. The lawsuit also expressed concerns that the machines, which were bought in the early 2000s, were susceptible to hacks by foreign countries, including Russia. 

While the Election Commission has requested funds to buy new voting machines before 2020’s contests, officials deny the flaws are widespread enough to alter the result of an election.

Lawmakers have not yet decided how much money they will allocate for the new machines, according to The State.

Two similar lawsuits in Georgia were allowed to proceed this week. They claim that state's  touchscreen voting machines are susceptible to hacking.