State and local election officials say they are working under “heightened security” ahead of the presidential election in an attempt to put fears to rest of a “rigged” contest or one that is disrupted by a foreign country.
Officials are working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the National Guard and technology agencies to make sure the process of voting and tabulating those votes goes unimpeded on Nov. 8, State Election Commission Executive Director Marci Andino said during an interview with the Herald-Journal on Monday. She said the attention to security in 2016 is unprecedented.
“It’s like no other election, it really is a different environment,” she said. “Security is a hot topic this year.”
While the election commission isn’t aware of any specific threats to voting in South Carolina, it’s better to be safe than sorry, she said. More than 30 states across the country are working with Homeland Security in an effort to protect the integrity of this year’s vote, Andino said.
South Carolina’s voting machines and the equipment used to tally votes are not connected to the Internet, so they shouldn’t be vulnerable to hacking, said Chris Whitmire, a spokesman for the election commission.
The process is overseen by non-partisan professionals, not political appointees, Andino said.
“We want to reassure voters that it’s highly unlikely our system would be rigged,” she said.
Based on past presidential elections, officials anticipate anywhere between 63 percent and 76 percent voter turnout this year, which could lead to long lines at certain parts of the day. Presidential races that don’t feature an incumbent, like this year’s contest, tend to skew on the higher side of that projection.
More than 3.1 million South Carolinians are registered to vote heading into this year’s election, a 22 percent increase over 2008, the last year without an incumbent president.
Absentee voting has been underway since Oct. 11, and officials have reported steady activity. Absentee voting continues until 5 p.m. on Nov. 7, the day before the election.
Whitmire said anyone who plans to mail a request for their ballot should do so a week ahead of the election. Ballots sent by mail must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day, even if that means they are hand-delivered.