After initial hiccup, Election Day in the Midlands and SC was ‘smooth,’ officials say

James Smith votes, is encouraged by campaign for SC governor

Candidate for South Carolina Governor James Smith spoke to the media after he voted at A.C. Moore Elementary School in Columbia, SC.
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Candidate for South Carolina Governor James Smith spoke to the media after he voted at A.C. Moore Elementary School in Columbia, SC.

After shattering the record for early voting in a midterm election, S.C. voters hit the polls on a soggy Election Day to decide who should represents them in local, state and constitutional races.

While not committing to a specific voter total, Chris Whitmire, spokesman for the S.C. Elections Commission, said it was possible that more than 55.7 percent of S.C. voters cast ballots. That would surpass the 2002 election when the state experienced a voter turnout of 55.6 percent. That is the second-highest percentage since a record 63 percent of voters participated in the 1994 election.

“We are right there around that (55 percent) range. I can say that turnout was higher than it was four years ago when it was 44 percent turnout, the lowest ever,” Whitmire said. “I’m encouraged to see voters exercising their right to vote. ... Overall, it was a pretty solid Election Day.”

In Richland County, Elections Director Rokey Suleman expected more than half of county voters to cast ballots, either Tuesday or in early voting. As of 9 p.m. Tuesday, he estimated 46 percent of Richland County voters had gone to the polls, and approximately 10 percent had participated via an absentee ballot.

That means of Richland County’s 240,000-plus registered voters, roughly 140,000 voted in the 2018 election. This is Suleman’s first midterm election in Richland County, but he said these figures indicate a higher voter turnout than had been recorded in either 2014 or 2010.

“It seems to be busy,” Suleman said just over an hour after polls opened Tuesday. “The calls that we’re getting show that people are showing up. There’s lines in some polling locations.”

Some Richland County precincts experienced what Suleman called “typical equipment issues” from aging voting machines — mainly calibration and hardware issues — which created delays.

Some of those calibration issues caused machines to “mismark” voters’ choices, according to Suleman. He urged voters who thought they were experiencing that problem to talk with a poll worker before casting their ballot.

While the issues caused long lines and delays during the early morning voter rush, the majority of the machines were up and running again by 3:30 p.m., Suleman said.

He said all of Richland County’s 990 voting machines were used throughout the day.

“It went by relatively smooth as the day went on,” Suleman said. “There were no line issues in the afternoon caused by the voting machines.”

Statewide, things were running smoothly just after 8 a.m., according to Whitmire.

“Most polling places had voters there at 7, ready to vote,” Whitmire said. “We had some issues in the morning and had to work through lines in the morning. ... You expect to deal with some kind of issues, there are a lot of moving parts. But we worked through those things. I didn’t see widespread lines or issues through the state, and the ones we had were rectified by the afternoon.”

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster votes in 2018 election at the Lourie Center Tuesday Nov. 6, 2018, in Columbia, SC. McMaster is facing the Democratic nominee state Rep. James Smith in the gubernatorial race.

No major issues were reported; however, in Pickens County, voters at many precincts had to use paper ballots because of a human error in burning the personal electronic ballots, which are the cartridge devices that poll workers use to load ballots on the machine, according to Whitmire.

Some of the machines were back up and running, replaced with a backup or removed..

All polling locations in the state are equipped with emergency paper ballots, which poll workers are trained to use, Whitmire said. The only difference for voters using those ballots is they must fill out paper ballots by hand instead of electronically. The ballots were counted along with the electronic votes Tuesday evening.

In contrast, provisional ballots, which are submitted if voters don’t show up on the rolls at polling places or don’t bring a photo I.D., will be counted Friday, Suleman said.

Most partial results should be added up by the end of Tuesday night. The results will be certified by the counties on Friday following the addition of provisional ballots, and made official by the state Nov. 14.

Voters in Lexington County reported being surprised after finding their names had been removed from local precincts’ rolls, according to Lexington County Elections Director Dean Crepes. The voters hadn’t participated since 2010, making them inactive voters.

Crepes worked with voters to change their status, allowing them to cast electronic ballots from the polls or submit paper provisional ballots, he said.

Richland County saw a similar influx of voters confused after being told they weren’t on local rolls. Suleman said a long line stretched out the door at the Richland County Elections Commission as residents fought to get their status changed and their votes counted.

Whether you're new to the state or need a refresher, South Carolina's voting machines are simple to use.

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