State election officials have finished a county-by-county review of the November 2010 vote, concluding that Richland County was one of the biggest offenders in miscounting those general-election ballots.
The eight-month auditing process determined that “human error” was the culprit in mistakes made in “a number of counties” across South Carolina, said Chris Whitmire, assistant director of the S.C. Election Commission. The discrepancies would not have changed the outcome of any race or issue, Whitmire said.
Conducting the audit forced state officials to develop a new computer program that counties can use to identify specific problems in data collection from the touchscreen machines. The state has been using the machines for six years. “We think future elections are going to be better because of it,” Whitmire said.
Just months after the election, the League of Women Voters of South Carolina uncovered and publicized mistakes in computer-generated data in select counties. Monday, league officials said they hadn’t had time to analyze the data that the S.C. Election Commission had just put up on its web site.
Eleanor Hare, a retired associate professor of computer science at Clemson University, said the state’s new auditing tool should improve the confidence of S.C. voters. Still, she said, state officials should have had the auditing system in place when they bought the machines.
The newly developed check-and-balance does not address the league’s concerns about the reliability of the machines, as she pointed out. Hare was involved in a statewide study of the voting machines by the League of Women Voters in 2005.
Whitmire acknowledged that data was not available from each of the 46 counties. Charleston County provided only partial information, for example, Hare said. But Richland and Colleton counties rose to the top, with the largest number of ballot problems. In Richland County, 1,127 ballots accidentally were not counted.