COLUMBIA, SC — Officials at Richland Countys Elections and Voter Registration Office scrambled to relieve voters stranded in hours-long lines by malfunctioning voting machines.
The distress calls from voting precincts was on a continuous loop since the polls opened at 7 a.m. By 8 a.m., reports of voting being delayed by almost an hour began trickling in.
At the Oak Pointe precinct, no machines were working until 7:40 a.m., then only three of the eight machines were working for an hour or so. By 10:06 a.m., when Bill Arnott IV finished voting, only five of the eight machines were working.
I shouldnt take three hours to vote, especially when record numbers of early voters have supposedly reduce the number of people voting today, Arnott said. The full complement of machines never works. Some would be working, then not. Then they fix one and get it to work, and another would break.
The county has 124 voting precincts. Cheryl A. Goodwin, the elections systems coordinator, said there were about 700 voting machines. A precise number of malfunctioning machines wasnt immediately available, but Goodwin said the faulty machines, coupled with a high volume of voters, contributed to the exasperating waits for some.
We just have long lines because this is a record turnout and were just overwhelmed with people, which is a good thing, Goodwin said. Were asking that they be patient with us absolving voter machine issues. Its a process.
During a mid-morning tour of the elections and voter registration office, Stephany Snowden, the countys spokeswoman, said there were the same number of machines available for voters as there were in 2008.
When a problem was reported, technicians at the office attempted to walk poll workers through a machine reboot.
If theyre not turned on the specific way, then it doesnt work, Snowden said about the machines. These things are, I dont want to say delicate, but they have to be turned on a specific way. When we find that they cannot address it from that standpoint, then were sending someone out.
Goodwin said the county had 18 machine technicians in the field on Election Day. Shortly after noon, a technician was taking a replacement to Sims Park, a precinct that had been reporting problems for much of the morning. But replacing the devices was not so simple, Goodwin, who was within view of a row of machines, said.
Ive got to make sure the data is on the machine, said Goodwin, holding memory cards in her hand.
Reach Taylor at (803) 771-8362.