SC turnout heavy; some in Richland County voted as late as 11:30 pm

sfretwell@thestate.com,November 7, 2012 

— Voters across South Carolina turned out in droves in Tuesday’s presidential election, but many waited hours to cast ballots, and Richland County appeared to have the most problems – with some voters in line until past 11:30 p.m.

The most complaints came from Richland County residents, said Chris Whitmire, a spokesman for the S.C. Election Commission.

Richland has about 1,000 voting machines but deployed no more than about 800 in the field, deputy election commission director Garry Baum said late Tuesday. Many of those not used are broken, Baum estimated. As of 11:30 p.m., 24 of the county’s 124 precincts still had not reported voter totals.

Many Richland County voters spent up to seven hours in line at precincts that they said didn’t have enough working voting machines to handle the crush of people. Voters in at least two precincts – Ridge View and Keels – were still in line to vote at about 11:30 p.m., more than four hours after polls closed, officials said.

“I feel disenfranchised by this mess,” said David Eddy, a Northeast Richland County voter. “Heads should roll for preventing working people from voting.”

Lillian McBride, voter registration and election commission director in Richland County, blamed the county’s previous election director for failing to leave adequate records for her staff to determine how many machines were needed in some precincts. McBride replaced Mike Cinnamon as election commission director in 2011.

“We didn’t have any records from the previous administrator who was here,” McBride said. She said the county provided the required number of machines, but in some precincts did not provide extra machines that could have helped move voters faster.

Reached at his home Tuesday night, Cinnamon said he left adequate information for the county after he retired last year.

“I’ve been gone since July of 2011 and I have yet to talk with anyone from that office,” he said. “I left information in that office that, if it wasn’t thrown away, they should have been able to find it. It’s easy to dump it on somebody else that was there before.”

Poll workers told The State that the A.C. Moore, Keenan, Dutch Fork and Pontiac precincts had fewer machines than in past elections, while the Pinehurst Park, Riverwalk and the Oak Pointe precincts were among those where voters said machines did not operate at times during the day.

McBride said many people may have assumed machines didn’t work or some precincts didn’t have enough machines, when in fact, they were the victims of heavy voter turnout. “I’ve heard some of the rumors that were going,” she said. “They were not true.”

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