1,114 Richland Co. votes not counted; what's done to protect you - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

1,114 Richland Co. votes not counted; what's done to protect your vote?

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1,114 votes were not counted in Richland County 1,114 votes were not counted in Richland County

The State Election Commission has discovered that the votes of 1,114 people in Richland County were not counted in the November 5 election. The results from one machine were overlooked in the vote count.

The votes were from absentee voters who cast their ballots in person at the Richland County Elections and Registration Office.

The votes would not have changed the outcome of any of the races or the ballot question if they had been counted. But it raises the question: What's done to protect your vote and make sure it counts?

Chris Whitmire, spokesman for the State Election Commission, says, "There's no excuse for not counting any ballot and there are ample checks and balances in place that should prevent that from happening."

Richland County Elections director Howard Jackson says, "We had procedures in place and we just didn't follow those procedures." He says his office is taking steps to make sure it never happens again.

So what exactly are the procedures in place to protect your vote? Whitmire says there are three.

  1. Software. While the votes are being counted, the software will give a warning if any machines are missing from the count. Those warnings could be ignored, missed, or disregarded, though.
  2. Asset management. The software tracks every piece of equipment that's used during an election. That way, if a machine has not been counted it will be obvious.
  3. Pre-certification audit. Before election results are certified, counties are supposed to do pre-certification audits. The audit compares the numbers in the machines, the computers, and the number of people who signed in at the polling places. In this case, it was an audit after certification that found that votes hadn't been counted.

 

Jackson says one of the steps his office will take to prevent this from happening again is to make sure that pre-certification audits are always done.

Because these procedures are in place and this seems to have been human error, Whitmire says he doesn't think any additional procedures are needed to protect your vote.

"It could happen in other places, but it shouldn't happen," he says. "There are enough procedures and safeguards in place to where it shouldn't happen."

Ironically, Jackson was just hired recently as Richland County's elections director to clean things up after major voting problems in 2012. The county didn't have enough voting machines in use, some machines broke down, and thousands of voters had to wait in line for hours to cast their ballots. Many voters ended up not being able to vote because of the lines.

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