Turnout was high across South Carolina on Election Day, with numerous reports of longer than normal wait times at polls from Anderson County to Florence. Several problems were reported with voting machines.
At one polling place in a fire station in Anderson County, the Anderson Independent Mail reported, turnout was so high Tuesday morning that the fire trucks and engines had to be moved to a field nearby to make room for voters to park. “The parking lot is full and there have been 240 voters, it’s a turnout poll workers said they’re more used to seeing by 5 p.m.,” the newspaper reported.
Lines in Florence were going out the door in some polling places, according to WPDE, with some people waiting before the polls even opened.
In Myrtle Beach, many polling places had lines Tuesday morning, but the wait times were short even as dozens of people lined up to vote.
In Charleston, several people on social media reported long lines to vote. People in the Charleston area people saw voting lines from 45 minutes to an hour and a half Tuesday morning, according to WCSC.
Poll workers passed out pizza to people waiting in line after 7 p.m. at West Ashley Advanced Studies Magnet near Charleston, the Post and Courier reported.
One voter claimed to have said he waited more than three hours to vote in West Ashley, WCIV reported.
The wait was even longer at some polling places in Hilton Head.
There were multiple reports of voters waiting 90 minutes to cast their ballots at the Seabook of Hilton Head and St. Luke’s Church on Hilton Head Island, where volunteers said voters were lined up by 6:30 a.m., a half-hour before polls opened, according to the Island Packet.
One voter waited so long that she called 911.
Sandy Hanebrink, who uses a wheelchair, attempted to do a curbside vote and waited 45 minutes without any success, reported the Independent-Mail in Anderson. After being unable to get the attention of poll workers or get through to voting hotlines, she made a “non-emergency call” to the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office for assistance, the newspaper reported.
Michael Bratcher, the poll manager, told the newspaper that there were not enough poll workers to manage curbside voting and others in line waiting to cast their ballot and that he was unaware Hanebrink and others were waiting, according to the newspaper.
At Charleston’s St. Andrews School of Math and Science, a woman “battling an illness” waited in line for an hour before asking a poll worker if she could issue a curbside vote, the Post and Courier reported. A poll watcher eventually helped the woman vote from her car — after another hour-long wait — the newspaper reported.
And one voter endured more than a long line to cast his vote.
Michael McCann said he drove eight hours from Ohio to vote in York County, because he did not think his absentee ballot would be posted in time for the election, the Herald reported.
Problems with voting machines
In Richland County, some residents reported that their votes were changed to the opposite party by electronic voting machines, according to WLTX.
Richland County Elections Director Rokey Suleman blamed a calibration issue with the voting machines.
“If the calibration slips, you can touch it but the screen will select either above or below because of the calibration issue,” Suleman told The State newspaper.
Voters said they noticed the problem when they reviewed their electronic ballots, WLTX reported.
Richard Kennedy, 67, said he voted at the Gregg Park polling site in Richland County. When he went to select the Republican candidate for an office, the machine selected the Democrat, he said by phone Tuesday just after leaving the polls.
He said he complained to poll workers, who cited the problems with calibration and canceled his vote on that machine and moved him to another.
“That’s a pretty serious calibration issue,” he said.
Elections officials said that the machines typically must be recalibrated several times but that higher turnout Tuesday meant they needed to be reset earlier than usual, according to WLTX.
In the first hours of voting, elections officials in Pickens County were having problems with voting machines and were giving paper ballots to voters, according to The State newspaper.
At least one polling place in Anderson County had similar problems, according to WYFF. The television station reported voting machines in one county polling place went down, but almost all were back up before 9 a.m.
S.C. Elections Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire blamed the issues in Pickens County on human error, the newspaper reported. Whitmire told The State that there was an issue with the device poll workers use to set up ballots on the electronic voting machines.
Voters in seven precincts were affected by the issue in Pickens County, according to the Greenville News. The paper ballots will not be counted until the polls close and the process could be slow, the newspaper reported.
Whitmire told The State that some of the machines were working again a little after 8 a.m. He said every polling place has paper ballots in case of an emergency and that they would be counted along with the other ballots cast Tuesday.
In Lake Wylie, a voter attempting to cast a ballot for Democrat Archie Parnell had her vote changed to Republican Ralph Norman six times by the machine, the Rock Hill Herald reported. Poll workers moved Angelique McGowan to another machine, and the original was recalibrated.
There were issues with voting machines in Charleston and the Lowcountry as well.
Three of the five machines at Mitchell Elementary School were not working in the morning, but were functioning by noon, TV station WCSC reported.
Four voting machines at Fort Dorchester High School in Dorchester County were disabled after an outlet short-circuited, according to WCBD. The machines were removed from the school, which had others for voters to use.
Paper ballots were used in Colleton County because of a mistake made by seasonal workers that resulted in machines being sent to the wrong polling places, WCSC reported. The machines were updated and are now in use, according to the TV station.
According to the Island Packet, there were some reports of voting machines being down, but no outages prevented precincts from accepting votes.
Other Election Day problems
Help was called to deal with more than voting machines in South Carolina.
Beaufort County Sheriff’s deputies arrested a woman for “disrupting the election process,” the Island Packet reported. A 58-year-old woman was arrested at a library that was also serving as a voting precinct for yelling at voters in line and reading “The Plot Against America” aloud, according to the newspaper.
Another issue that many going to the polls had to deal with was their status as an inactive voter. It is the term for people who were once registered to vote, but couldn’t cast a ballot because they moved, were convicted of a felony or had not voted in the past eight years, according to the Sun News.
Lexington County Elections Director Dean Crepes said he helped a number of people dealing with the issue, changing their status to active, The State reported. Crepes also said inactive voters could cast a provisional ballot, which will be counted on Friday.
The state broke a record for absentee ballots in a mid-term election this year, according to The State, with 261,966 ballots cast before the election.
Charles Duncan: 843-626-0301, @duncanreporting