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.
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.
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.
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.