The Buzz

Richland County officials acknowledge they failed to count over 1,000 ballots

Richland County officials have acknowledged they failed to count 1,040 ballots during the 2018 general election.

A combination of errors, including a machine not being returned on election night and elections officials failing to turn in memory cards with completed ballots, led to the uncounted absentee and in-person ballots, state and local elections officials said Wednesday.

The uncounted ballots made up around 1 percent of the total ballots cast in the election, and did not change the results of any elections, said Chris Whitmire, the spokesman for the South Carolina Election Commission. After Richland County became aware of the uncounted ballots, Rokey Suleman, the former director of Richland County’s elections and voter registration, resigned. The county’s deputy director, Thad Hall, will replace Suleman at least temporarily, according to a previous article from The State.

To ensure Richland County counts all of its ballots in the future, elections officials will beef up staffing at polling places where they were short on personnel and create a better process for reacting to reports of faulty machines, Hall said at the county’s Wednesday board of elections meeting.

There were 834 uncounted absentee ballots, 132 uncounted ballots at Ward 32, and 74 uncounted ballots at the Rice Creek 1 precinct, Whitmire said.

Even though Richland County’s uncounted ballots were in part caused by machines that crashed, Whitmire said the votes still should have been counted.

“There are multiple checks and balances in places that should catch the mistake,” Whitmire said.

The results of all the races remained the same. However, the most enduring damage may be to the reputation of the county’s elections, which still suffer from the 2012 general election when voters stood in line for hours to cast ballots.

“Nobody trusts the Richland County elective process,” S.C. Sen. Dick Harpootlian, D-Richland, said at the Wednesday meeting. “I don’t.”

Lucas Daprile has been covering the University of South Carolina and higher education since March 2018. Before working for The State, he graduated from Ohio University and worked as an investigative reporter at TCPalm in Stuart, FL. There, where he won multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for his political and environmental coverage.