Less than two weeks before Election Day, state and county officials say they’re doing everything they can to ensure a safe and fair voting process, despite some allegations of a “rigged” system.
Campaign rhetoric has “taken on a life of its own,” but the S.C. State Election Commission is committed to assuaging fears that the election might be compromised, said Marci Andino, the commission’s executive director.
“We’re trying to get the word out,” said Andino. “We’re aware of the recent news stories ... but we’re hoping to reassure voters that security is not a new concern for the election commission.”
The election is organized on the county level, meaning a “rigged” election, which Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has said is a threat, would require the cooperation of all 46 different county elections officials.
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We’re hoping to reassure voters that security is not a new concern for the Election Commission.
Marci Andino, executive director of S.C. State Election Commission
Each vote is recorded in three separate locations on hardware in the voting machine that is then removed and given to county elections offices, where the votes are then counted and certified.
Officials are working alongside the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the National Guard and technology agencies to make sure the voting process is both accurate and smooth, said Chris Whitmire, the commission’s spokesman.
“We’re confident that the numbers on election night will be accurate,” said Whitmire. “We’re taking all reasonable measures to safeguard (the election).”
Officials who run county election offices are not elected or appointed by an elected official.
257,000 applications The S.C. State Election Commission has sent out 20 percent more applications for absentee voting than compared to the 2012 general election (~ 214,000)
Because the voting machines and the equipment used to tally votes are not connected to the Internet, Whitmire said the process shouldn’t be vulnerable to hacking.
Officials stressed that it is important for voters to remember to bring an acceptable form of identification in order to vote. This will be the first presidential election since the state enforced its photo ID law.
Acceptable forms of identification include:
▪ State driver’s license
▪ S.C. DMV ID card
▪ S.C. Voter Registration Card with a photo
▪ Federal military ID
▪ United States passport
More absentee voters
Absentee voting has risen considerably, compared to the 2012 general election. Andino reported that as of this week, the commission had sent out 20 percent more applications than four years ago.
This will be the first presidential election since South Carolina enforced its photo ID law in 2013
Voters can vote absentee by mail or in person if they are serving in the military, are physically disabled or are not able to vote due to work, among other qualifications.
Both North Carolina and Georgia have options for early voting for which voters need no such excuse.
Andino said early voting has long been discussed in the S.C. Legislature, but lawmakers have been unable to come to an agreement.
Officials say they expect voter turnout to be at its highest when there is a presidential election with no incumbent. It’s possible, Andino said, that more than 20 percent of the voting public could vote absentee.
“People are motivated to participate,” said Andino. “People think back to earlier elections, and they don’t want to wait in long lines. They think ‘Hey, if I can (vote absentee), why not?’”
No room for intimidation
Officials said they have instructed poll managers to maintain order at precincts by stopping any sign of voter intimidation.
Poll watchers are allowed to observe the election process and identify any irregularities to officials, as long as they are not disrupting the process, said Whitmire.
If any individual is seen to be either harassing or threatening voters, managers have the right to step in and call law enforcement.
Poll watchers are typically appointed by a candidate or political party. The observers cannot speak with voters, must present the poll manager with a letter stating that he/she is certified to act in that precinct, and wear a badge stating they are with a certain party.
When should I vote?
Whitmire and Andino said all voters who are in line to vote by a 7 p.m. deadline on Election Day will be allowed to vote.
In order to reduce the rush, they asked for voters to either vote absentee or come to their precincts during less busy times, such as late morning or early afternoon.
It’s critical to make sure voters update their addresses before Election Day, they said. Even if voters moved within the county or got married, officials said it was important to make sure their information is updated to ensure that everyone can vote quickly.
Voters can update their information and view a sample ballot at SCVotes.org.
Leave your weapons at home
Any weapons should be left at home on Election Day: It is illegal to carry a firearm at polling places, even if the space allows firearms when it is not being used as a precinct.
Bringing any weapon in a polling location would be considered intimidation, and officials have the authority to call police.