DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Election workers in Dorchester County have been counting thousands of mail-in absentee ballots for nearly 24 hours a day since Election Day.
But officials with the Dorchester County Election Commission believe all the remaining ballots should be entered into their system by 6:00 p.m. on Thursday.
It all stems from a printing error that forced more than 14,000 of those ballots to be counted by hand and manually entered the ballots into a device.
It was caused by the size of timing marks on the ballots – small dashes printed at the top of the ballots were the wrong size, meaning the scanning machines could not read them.
“This all began, if you remember, when the paper mail-in ballots were actually printed with a line that was too small for the computer system to read,” explained Todd Billman, the Director of Elections for Dorchester County.
Billman said the process to count the ballots has involved 50-to-60 employees working around the clock.
“A lot of people say, ‘do you actually count those mail ballots?’ They actually say that, we absolutely do,” he said.
Billman said they discovered the problem with the paper mail-in ballots on Election Day. He said they did test their machines with paper ballots, as required by law on October 1st at 10:00 a.m.; however, the ballots that were mailed to voters by the state had smaller lines that their machines could not read.
“Once we realized that the machine would not be able to scan the balance, we looked at multiple ways, trying to look at the quickest and the most accurate way to rectify the situation,” he said.
That would be manually entering the ballots. Teams of two workers input the votes on the machines, just like you cast your ballot on election day.
They have a deadline of 10:00 a.m. on Friday to get all of the votes entered into the machines.
“We worked around the clock with poll workers who would work the election before. We actually had a lot of county employees to put in hours after the regular jobs to make sure that we would meet this deadline,” Billman said.
He explained there will be a cost for the extra hours by the workers, but he is not certain how much it will cost, or how it will be paid.
Billman says they expect to finish inputting the remaining ballots by 6:00 p.m. on Thursday.