But for one letter of the alphabet, Sonya Jenkins’ vote wouldn’t have counted.
The ballot Jenkins cast Tuesday in Richland County was set aside in a stack of about 300 that were challenged by poll workers and reviewed Friday by the county’s new election board. She showed up to appeal, along with two other voters.
Jenkins said when she went to vote, she was informed that her name wasn’t on a list of registered voters. But the 41-year-old said she always votes and never had a problem before.
Turns out she had registered using her middle initial, “T.,” but her photo ID did not show a middle initial. Only when office staff checked Friday, punching in her Social Security number, did Jenkins’ registration show up.
“It concerns me how many more people’s votes are not being counted,” she said after the board voted to accept her ballot.
This November, interim director Samuel Selph said, poll workers challenged more voters than usual for not having proper identification, showing up at the wrong precinct or being registered in another county. Challenged voters must cast paper ballots for later review.
The number of challenged ballots from two years ago was not immediately available.
But Selph said there were more challenges because thousands of voters were moved to new precincts. State legislators added 25 new precincts and tinkered with the boundaries of 67 others.
Only 17 voters were required to cast paper ballots because they didn’t have the required photo IDs, he noted.
One fellow refused to use the voting machine because he “didn’t believe in the integrity” of the computerized machines, Selph said.
The board rejected about half the challenged votes.
Staffers estimated another 200 absentee ballots were not counted because they weren’t filled out properly. Absentee ballots require the signature of a witness.
Unofficially, 112,594 ballots were cast Tuesday for a turnout of 43.54 percent of registered county voters.
Board member Jane Emerson acknowledged “squeamish-ness” about invalidating votes.
As Selph noted, anyone who wanted to appeal was told to come to the meeting.
“It’s 9 o’clock on a work day,” Emerson responded. “Not everybody can be here.”
Likewise, chairwoman Marjorie Johnson expressed concern when north Columbia voter Michael Payne said he tried to vote in Richland County, where he lives, but was told he needed to go to his old precinct in Lexington County. Payne said he was turned away there, too.
“We have produced a frustrated voter,” Johnson said. “The system has failed this voter.”
But board member Peter Kennedy said the responsibility rests with voters to ensure their registrations are current.
Selph said officials from the Republican and Democratic parties asked to review challenged ballots as well.