Some Richland County voters expecting a quick stop at the voting booth found quite the opposite.
Long lines were prevalent due to heavy turnout but also to a shortage of machines or machines that aren't working properly.
Amanda Loveday, Executive Director of the South Carolina Democratic Party was exasperated. "I don't know what the problem is," she said. "The Election Commission was not prepared for this kind of turnout."
"There are voters who are leaving. We've heard of people waiting four or five hours."
The criticism of the long waits was bi-partisan. Indicating that the problem was happening in many other states, President Barack Obama mentioned the lengthy lines in his acceptance speech. Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin and State GOP Chair Chad Connelly were also critical of the machines.
A sampling of the problems:
- At Ward 12-Hand Middle School in Columbia one of the four machines was not functioning.
- One machine was not working at Ward 25-Kilbourne Park Baptist Church.
- Ward 3-Reformation Lutheran Church had a shortage of machines.
- Wildewood Precinct-St. John Neumann Church also had a shortage of machines.
- Ward 14-Sims Park had lengthy lines due to broken machines.
- At 11 p.m., four hours after polls closed people were still waiting to vote in the Pontiac area.
- At midnight only 65 out of 124 precincts had reported results.
There are reports of precincts where only two or three of the eight available machines are not working. Poll workers have told Patch that they have fewer machines than normal, that in 2008 they had 11 machines and this year they had only five.
, particularly Friarsgate.
Rep. Nathan Ballentine (R), who is running unopposed in District 71, tweeted he would push for early voting after reports of long lines and wait times of at least four hours in several precincts in Richland County.
Patch was able to speak South Carolina Election Commissions Spokesperson Chris Whitmire via email. Here's what he said:
1. When county elections commissioners say they "requested" more machines, where does that request go and who says no or yes?
County election commissions are responsible for purchasing more machines.
2. If a commissioner wanted more, who would foot the bill? The county.
3. Is it true that many of South Carolina's machines are used from other states? Local League of Women Voters officials have claimed so.
The vast majority of machines in use are the original machines purchased in 2004. Some counties have purchased additional machines since then. Some of those machines would be refurbished machines – machines that may have been used in other states that were sent to the manufacturer, refurbished, and put back on the market. These machines go through the same testing and are very much like new machines. I’ve seen nothing to indicate that refurbished machines perform any differently than new machines.
4. Who decides where the newer machines go and where the older machines go?
County election commissions.
5. What could be done differently to prevent such long waits?
Most of the lines are a direct result of the overwhelming turnout today by South Carolina voters. More machines isn’t usually the answer (although it sounds like it may be in some particular cases). The bottleneck usually occurs at the check-in table. The SEC developed an electronic voter registration list in 2006 that can drastically speed up the check in process over the paper list method. The software is free to counties; they just need the laptops to operate it. The SEC has purchased hundreds of laptops over the past five years for counties, particularly for the largest precincts in the state. We continue to encourage county to leverage EVRL to help alleviate bottlenecks, and we continue to help with laptop purchases when possible. Many counties have also purchased laptops as well.
Stay tuned to Patch as we'll have more on this story in the coming days.