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Absentee voting hits new record

Election unfolds with some local voting 'hiccups'

Posted: November 6, 2012 6:15 p.m.
Updated: November 7, 2012 5:00 a.m.
Denise Schnese/C-I

Voters ended up on long lines at the city of Camden’s new Hobkirk’s Hill precinct, a consolidation of two former precincts, Camden Nos. 3 and 4. Poll workers briefly held the line due to a problem where city of Camden candidates were not showing up on the electronic voting screens.

 

Absentee voting statewide and in Kershaw County hit an all-time high this election cycle as more than 375,000 South Carolinians cast their ballots before Election Day. Kershaw County Voting Registration Director Rosalind Watson estimated absentee voting in the county this year nearly doubled that of the 2010 election.

“We’ve had about 6,600 absentee ballots overall,” Watson said Tuesday. “Our record high was in 2010 where we had a total of about 3,300.”

Absentee voting in the county began September 26 and lasted until 5 p.m. Monday.

In addition to record levels of absentee voting, Assistant Voting Director Jim Fitzpatrick said voter turnout was steady throughout the day.

“I’ve heard it’s been heavy,” he said around 2 p.m. Tuesday. “Turnout usually picks up in the afternoon around 2 p.m. right up to closing. It’s slack around midday, but the busiest times are first thing in the morning and afternoon up until closing.”

He noted that “well over” 200 poll workers were helping throughout the county on Election Day.

Tuesday’s voting did experience some problems, which Fitzpatrick largely attributed to a lack of updated voter information.

“We’ve had a few hiccups. Part of it is just due to people not changing their addresses in time or people not going to the right precincts,” Fitzpatrick said. “Because this is a presidential election, it’s been amplified.”

He said he understood how it was an inconvenience for voters on Election Day.

“I understand their frustration, but the process for changing addresses is slow. If they have not done it previously, then they had to just bear with us until we could get it done.”

Voting troubles in the county included an issue with a particular ballot style at the Hobkirk’s Hill precinct and lines at Lugoff No. 2 located at Lugoff Middle School.

City resident Gil Holmes encountered the issue at the Hobkirk Hill’s precinct -- a consolidation of former Camden Nos. 3 and 4 -- explaining voters were told to wait.

“As I understand it, this ‘5’ number is our ballot style and this particular one is not pulling up. So if you have the ‘5,’ the city ballot is not going to come up at all,” Holmes said. “We were able to vote for the national and county, but the city was not coming up. They have told us to wait. We can go to voter registration to vote or wait here,” Holmes said Tuesday morning.

Voter Joanna Heaton had a similar account of the problem, explaining, “we voted for the state and county, but not for the city. There were no paper ballots available for the city, so we are waiting now.”

According to a poll worker who did not want to be identified, approximately 10 individuals waited at the precinct until the problem was corrected by an election commission rover. Rovers travel to various polling locations throughout the county to assess and assist with problems relating to the election process.

Watson said the No. 5 ballot style was designed not to display information for the city and that due to the complexity of redistricting, errors did seem to exist as far as voters initially being given that particular ballot style.

“I did keep hearing problems with No. 5,” Watson said. “We have to be careful of what’s in the city, what’s not in the city, etc. So if a person is certain they’re in the city, I try to tell them to call us and if we (had) a street problem, they’ll (had) to come here (the voter registration office).”

Fitzpatrick explained that the electronic voting box -- known as a PEB -- displays ballot styles specific to a particular precinct.

He said when the device is “clicked in” to the voting machine by a poll worker, the ballot information is displayed. Since the No. 5 style was not intended to display city balloting information, those voters were initially unable to access that election material.

According to Hobkirk’s Hill voters, the ballot No. 5 issue seemed to be resolved by 10 a.m.

At Lugoff Middle School, there were reports that people were leaving without having voted.

Precinct Clerk William Brown stated that there was an issue early in the day as a large crowd had already gathered inside by the time the polls opened.

“There was an extremely large crowd and we had six machines and two laptops. I suggested that the voters form two lines according to the first letter of their last name. One of the laptops kept going in and out and so a few individuals made a complaint to the board of elections,” said Brown.

Brown said he could understand why some people were upset about the wait, but that things went smoothly after that.

“If anyone left they did so on their own, or did not have proper voter credentials,” said Brown.

Despite the minor problems, an informal poll on the C-I’s Facebook page showed only one person out of the 19 who had commented between 3 and 4 p.m. Tuesday said that they had any difficulty, stating that their experience was “awful” and “unorganized.” The remainder, however, reported that they were “in and out in 10 minutes” or that “it took … longer to walk from the parking lot” than to cast their vote.

Some people asked the C-I earlier in the day about the documents they needed to prove they were eligible to vote. One person said they did not know they were not allowed to vote using a military ID card. That will be possible in 2013, according to SCVotes.org, the S.C. Election Commission’s website. Currently, the law only allows three forms of ID to be shown to vote -- a voter registration card, S.C. driver’s license or S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)-issued ID.

Starting Jan. 1, voters will be able to show not only a federal military ID, but a S.C. driver’s license, DMV-issued ID, U.S. passport or the new S.C. voter registration card which will contain a photo of the registered voter. The changes are part of the state’s new “Voter ID” law.

Kershaw County has 38,989 registered voters, according to the voter registration office.

The C-I will have full precinct-by-precinct results and reactions from the candidates in Friday’s edition and on our website.

(Editor Martin L. Cahn contributed to this story.)

 

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