Richland County had 185 fewer voting machines this November compared to two years ago despite 16,300 more people at the polls, according to an independent analysis from an elections expert released Friday. Nearly three out of four precincts had fewer machines than two years ago, contributing to 12 percent of the 121,200 ballots cast after the polls closed at 7 p.m. this year, according to Duncan Buell, a University of South Carolina computer science professor who specializes in electronic voting systems. Just 2 percent of ballots were cast late in 2010. PDF: Election Report
The last person voted at 12:17 a.m. in the Keels precinct in Northeast Richland, according to Buell’s examination of Richland County voting machine records, obtained from the S.C. Elections Commission. Nearly 36 percent of voters at Keels cast ballots after 7 p.m. — joining 49 other precincts where 10 percent or more of people voted after 7 p.m. Only one precinct had more than 10 percent of late voters in 2010.
Buell’s findings come just before Monday’s meeting of the Richland County legislative delegation for a fact-finding hearing with county elections director Lillian McBride and county elections chairwoman Liz Crum about problems that led to waits from three to seven hours for thousands of voters, and difficulties in tabulating results that led to lawsuits.
Buell said he shared his findings with the county delegation and state party officials. He declined to say what he thinks ought to happen with county elections leaders, saying he wanted to provide numbers to the anecdotes about voting woes.
Based on registration numbers and state law requiring a machine for every 250 voters, Richland County should have had at least 940 machines in this year’s election, Buell said. But the county had only 628 machines — 23 percent below the 813 used in 2010 — with voter turnout 15.5 percent higher than two years ago. The problem was made worse when machines broke down in possibly dozens of precinct locations, compounding waits for voters.