Some Greenville County polling sites are “bulging at the seams” with a record number of registered voters in the county and officials are searching for future solutions while making plans to deal with long lines on Election Day.
The county has 10.8 percent more registered voters this election than it had in the last presidential election in 2012. This year, 317,369 people are registered, the highest of any county in the state, compared to 286,398 in 2012.
But the county has 151 polling precincts this election, the same number it had in 2012. Some of those precincts have more than double the number of voters election officials recommend, said Conway Belangia, Greenville County director of voter registration and elections.
Belangia would like to see precincts with 2,000-2,500 voters per site, but this year 35 precincts have more than 2,500 registered voters.
Eight of those sites have more than 3,000 voters registered and one – Walnut Springs in the Five Forks area of Simpsonville – has 4,425 registered voters.
“We don’t want precincts that are huge because that creates long lines,” he said. Some are “bulging at the seams,” he said.
To combat long lines this year, the county purchased driver’s license scanners for each precinct so poll workers won’t have to type voter names or information into laptops to check voter registrations, he said.
About 90 percent of registered voters in the county use driver’s licenses as their form of voter identification, he said.
“It allows us to process voters a little bit quicker but more efficiency,” he said. “The chance of human error comes down tremendously.”
The county has studied which precincts are expected to have the highest turnout and have scheduled extra poll workers and electronic voting machines for those sites, he said.
The State Election Commission doesn’t have a specific number of voters it recommends per precinct, said Chris Whitmire, SEC spokesman.
Whether a polling site can handle more voters depends on the size of the polling place and available parking and on the number of voting machines and poll managers allocated to each site, he said.
“For example, you could have really well run, efficient polling place with 4,000 voters if you had a large gym, plenty of parking, and plenty of voting machines and managers,” he said. “However, if you had 4,000 voters in a precinct, and the polling place is a small rural fire station with only a few parking spaces, that would likely cause problems.”
After the election, Belangia said he the election board plans to redraw precinct boundaries to create an additional 25 precincts. But, he said, it’s become a challenge to find suitable locations willing to act as a polling site.
The best way to cut down on lines on Election Day would be to add early voting, something he said he has been begging the state Legislature to allow.
Early voting would allow the county to establish three or four voting centers across the county, he said. And as Greenville continues to grow, it’s going to become even more difficult to find enough polling sites on Election Day to handle the number of voters, he said.
Greenville County’s eight largest polling sites, with location and number of registered voters, are:
- Walnut Springs, Clear Spring Baptist Church, 301 Bethany Road, Simpsonville: 4,425
- Greenville 24, Beck Academy, 901 Woodruff Road, Greenville: 3,724
- Mauldin 2, Forrester Woods Clubhouse, 424 Piney Grove Road, Greenville: 3,534
- Neely Farms, Christ Community Church, 700 Harrison Bridge Road, Simpsonville: 3,323
- Thornblade, Airport Baptist Church, 776 S. Batesville Road, Greer: 3,255
- Mauldin 4, Mauldin United Methodist Church, 100 East Butler Road, Mauldin: 3,079
- Sandy Flat, Double Springs Baptist Church, 3800 Locust Hill Road, Taylors: 3,048
- Mauldin 5, Mauldin Miller Fire Station #1, 802 Miller Road, Mauldin: 3,041