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Gambling With Democracy

Corey Hutchins Free Times Oct 5 2010
Experts Question Quality of South Carolina Voting Machines

"Excuse me, doc, what was Marci’s answer that you were unhappy with?”

Dressed in a well-fitting pinstriped suit and shiny tie, Johnny Hudgens, chairman of the South Carolina Election Commission, leans forward and asks the question during a rather awkward exchange at September’s meeting of the state agency’s board.

The room goes quiet and all eyes turn to University of South Carolina computer scientist Duncan Buell, who had just finished delivering a meticulously savage techno-babble takedown of the entire system of electronic voting machines the state has been using in elections since 2004.

After Buell had finished his presentation — during which he’d called the voting machines “buggy,” “unstable,” “exploitable” and “not professional quality stuff,” among other things — he told the commission that he’d wondered why the kind of knowledge he’d just dropped on them hadn’t ever been presented before.

In fact, he says, he’d asked agency director Marci Andino that question the last time the two had spoken and wasn’t happy with her response.

At the head of the table, Chairman Hudgens wants to know what on earth it was that Andino could have said.

With a sheaf of papers in hand, Buell looks at the members of the commission.

“I quote,” he says, gesturing to Andino, “‘And just how long do you think I would keep my job if I did that?’ unquote.”

The agency director looks up at Buell from her chair.

“If I did what?” Andino asks, bewildered.

“If you presented … this sort of information I have just given you,” Buell says and turns to the other members of the board. “That was [her] response. I think you all need to know why the professionals say bad things [about South Carolina’s voting machines]. This is why.”

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