In early 2012, the magazine Scientific America used South Carolina to point out the problems with electronic voting machines, which it said, produced no tangible proof that the results were valid. "If you have a machine collecting and recording votes with an electronic ballot box there's no way to go back after the fact and see if the machine made a mistake, whether through malice or simple software error," says Stanford University computer science professor David Dill and founder of Verified Voting Foundation, a nonpartisan election watchdog.
Heindel's work put him in contact with others who shared his concerns about the voting machines used in South Carolina, including Duncan Buell, a professor of computer science at the University of South Carolina; Eleanor Hare, a retired computer science professor from Clemson University; Barbara Zia, president of the League of Women Voters in South Carolina; and Chip Moore, a computer scientist from Cambridge, Massachusetts who had grown up in South Carolina. They began sharing their work and posting their results on the website, http://www.scvotinginfo.com/
As a result of FOIA requests and a computer analysis of voting records of the 2010 elections, Heindel, Buell, Hare, Zia, and Moore found "disturbing conclusions" about the voting in the state, including a 10 percent "over vote" in Colleton County; 1,100 votes not counted in Richland County; and "19,000 missing digital ballot images in Charleston County." Digital images are supposed to be stored by the machines and used to verify vote counts.
Furthermore, they found out that the state had no procedures for auditing the voting results.
"There was an unacceptable amount of blind faith, but no auditing," Heindel said. "Remarkably, the State Election Commission did not have anyone employed capable of analyzing any of the electronic data. You can't find evidence of problems if you don't have the skills necessary to properly examine the evidence."
In addition to the concerns of the credibility of the voting machines, the Argonne National Laboratory, which is operated by the University of Chicago, reported that electronic voting machines are "ridiculously easy" to be compromised by hackers.
State Sen. Glenn McConnell Republican of Charleston, who is now the state's lieutenant governor, requested an audit of the electronic voting machines by the state's politically neutral Legislative Audit Council to determine if it was necessary to replace the iVotronic machines "with voting machines that incorporate a paper trail or with a replacement process whereby we can have a confirmation that the results are accurate."
The legislative audit is not expected to have its results until after the November elections. Heindel is hopeful that the audit will convince the state to scrap its electronic voting machines for paper ballots.
Two years after Alvin Greene's victory in the Democratic Senate primary, Heindel said he doesn't know if Greene's victory was the result of any deliberate fraud.
"We allowed ourselves to be put in the unacceptable position of accepting the election outcome without seeing all the input that created the answer," he said. "We are not where we need to be, but the good news is the Alvin Greene victory was indeed a wake-up call and our efforts have resulted in more transparency regarding what takes place behind the curtain."
Chris Lamb, a communication professor at the College of Charleston, is author of six books, including The Sound and Fury of Sarah Palin (FrontLine Press).