Computer problems slow election returns

  • Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Ed Carter, who ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Patsy Knight for House District 97, relaxes with the paper after the polls close at DuBose Middle School. He spent the day greeting voters at the school.

Link to Dorchester election results

Link to South Carolina election results

They came with umbrellas and winter coats, with babies in strollers and with coffee and snacks to sustain them through the long wait, and they came to vote.
Dorchester County recorded almost 65 percent voter turnout in Tuesday’s election, slightly lower than the overall state turnout.
Of the more than 56,600 people who cast votes, 7,891, or 14 percent, voted via in-person absentee ballots, according to Joshua Dickard, executive director of the Dorchester County Board of Elections & Voter Registration. Most polling places started the day with a line. Some slowed to a trickle mid-day, but other precincts sustained long lines throughout the day.
At Oakbrook Middle School, which hosts the Kings Grant precincts, the line at 6:20 p.m. wound out the door, down the sidewalk past the school office entrance and into the darkness alongside a wooded area next to the driveway.
Voters didn’t just wait for hours to cast their ballots, though. Because of technical problems reading the vote cartridges, observers couldn’t get any results from the election commission for hours.
Results began to post around midnight, but as of late Wednesday morning the Delemars precinct results still hadn’t been posted.
Dickard said there were two different issues. The Delemars precinct, which has 511 registered voters, had one machine that wasn’t providing results, so the commission was waiting on a technician from ES&S, the voting machine vendor, to come fix it.
The wait Tuesday evening, however, was because of problems reading the cartridges from each precinct.
Dickard explained that the system has slots for each candidate and party. There are 10 political parties in South Carolina, including parties like the Green party and Working Families party, but not all were on the ballot Tuesday.
Those that didn’t appear on the ballot were still listed in the system, in “hidden” mode.
Apparently they weren’t hiding correctly, though, because they bumped the other candidates and parties out of alignment, which forced the system to give off an error message.
“There was never an issue with incorrect votes. It just wouldn’t read,” he said.
To fix the problem, workers added the dormant parties back in, which pushed everyone else back into alignment and allowed the results to be read, he said.
He said the problem was fixed between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., but workers then spent extra time checking and double-checking the results before posting them.
“Everything read accurately. Everybody’s vote got counted,” he said. “I’m 100 percent confident we have the correct result.”
The results included a decisive win for County Councilman Bill Hearn, who garnered 75 percent of the vote against challenger Miriam Birdsong.
Rep. Patsy Knight was also poised for re-election. With the Delemars precinct still outstanding, she had 8,253 votes to Ed Carter’s 6,823.
With only 511 registered voters in the Delemars precinct, however, Carter wouldn’t be able to make up the difference.
For the Senate 41 seat, with incomplete results it appeared that Paul Thurmond would win the seat over Paul Tinkler, with 55 percent of the vote as of Wednesday afternoon.
Thurmond was more popular in Dorchester County, where he got almost 61 percent of the vote in the eight precincts in that district.

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