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Kershaw County votes in major turnout for midterms

Posted: November 8, 2018 5:07 p.m.
Updated: November 9, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Martin L. Cahn/C-I

Lynn Crump (center) waits near the front of a long line of voters Tuesday morning at New Hope Church of Camden (formerly Northgate Baptist), which served as the polling place for the Springdale precinct. There were early reports that the line was so long at one point that some voters decided to return later.

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Voters in Kershaw County started early and started strong Tuesday morning for Election Day 2018. At many precincts, poll workers saw record or near-record turnout. Others reported a slow, but steady stream of voters during the morning; a few saw only a light turnout.

“It was a major turnout,” Kershaw County Office of Voter Registration Manager John Caughman said. “I think it was definitely the biggest we’ve ever seen for a mid-term. The numbers aren’t all in yet, but the last number I heard was better than 60 percent.”

Polls opened at 7 a.m. and some people claimed the number of voters at New Hope Church of Camden (formerly Northgate Baptist Church), which serves as the Springdale precinct, was so high that some people said they would return later in the day.

Camden Elementary School also saw a large number of people early in the day, as did Malvern Hill Baptist Church, the Applied Technology Education Campus (ATEC), Midway Elementary School and the Bethune Recreation Center. Malvern Hill and the Cassatt precinct at Midway Elementary both reported seeing more than 200 voters by 10:30 a.m. At ATEC, Airport poll workers predicted they would reach that level by noon.

Lugoff 1 and 2 precincts reported heavy initial turnouts. As of around 10 a.m. more than 250 people had voted in Lugoff 2 – surpassing the total turnout for the primary, according to poll clerk Terry Sheppard.

“We had a line all the way out to the parking lot, waiting to get in this morning,” Sheppard said.

Back in Camden, the chair of the city’s election commission, Bruce Little, said 170 people had voted by 9:40 a.m. at Rhame City Arena.

“It’s been slow, but steady,” Little said.

According to SCVotes.org, the S.C. Election Commission’s official website, 57.28 percent of registered Kershaw County voters participated in Tuesday’s election.

Data from SCVotes.org shows that the largest turnout for Kershaw County was actually among absentee voters, with a total of 4,490 absentee ballots cast.

“That’s significantly larger than the largest precincts we actually have,” Caughman said. “And the absentee precent grows larger with every election.”

The highest number of ballots cast at any one precinct in the county was at Elgin No. 1 where 1,087 voters cast ballots out of 2,098 registered voters for a 51.81 percent turnout there. The highest percentage turnout came at the Liberty Hill precinct where 306 of 543, or 56.35 percent, registered voters cast ballots.

The lowest turnouts were at the Camden No. 2 and 3 precient, with a combined 39.07 percent; Lugoff No. 1 and Riverdale precincts, both at 38.92 percent; and Hobkirk’s Hill with 36.6 percent.

Overall, the election day process went smoothly, Caughman said. Turnout was heavy, but people seemed to be patient and there were no interpersonal issues that occurred that he heard of, Caughman said. There was at least one instance in which a voter took issue with having to show a photo I.D., but it was explained to that voter that he could still vote, that the photo I.D. requirement is not designed to intimidate or suppress voting.

“He voted and I think he went away satisfied,” Caughman said. “I didn’t hear of any issues anywhere else.”

However, there were some issues with the machines themselves, he said. Machines malfunctioned in several precincts, including the Charlotte-Thompson, Hobkirk Hill, Springdale and Westville precincts. This caused waiting time to increase, as fewer machines were available to serve a higher number of voters.

“We did have some machine issues,” Caughman said. “The machines are definitely showing their age. The county had the machines fully refurbished last November, and we still had a few failures.”

Machine malfunctions did not compromise the vote count integrity at all, Caughman said. Each voting machine captures data three ways -- through its main UPB card, and through electronic and paper back up. When a machine goes down, the data is not compromised, but it does take a little longer to retrieve the information and transmit it to the state election commission.

He noted that, not only has it been more than 10 years since Kershaw County phased in the electronic voting system, but the technology itself is even older.

“Hopefully, the legislature will purchase a new system next year,” he said. “Under state law, every county is required to have the same system, so we can’t just go out and buy a system that works for us. The state will have to come up with the money, make a request, and decide what we all get. Hopefully we’ll have some input into that, but it’s ultimately up to the legislature.”

All in all, Caughman said he was pleased with the process.

“I wish we didn’t have machine issues, but until the new system is in, we’ll do the best we can with any issues that show up,” he said.

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