South Carolina: Horry County election officials rescan thousands of absentee ballots after USB device malfunction | Jennifer Roberts/WMBF

The South Carolina Election Commission instructed the Horry County Registration & Elections office to rescan absentee ballots following a “data transfer issue,” officials said. “ES&S, the scanning equipment manufacturer, assisted the elections office throughout the day with the procedure which began this morning [Thursday] around 10 a.m.,” Horry County Government said in a press release. South Carolina Elections Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said all legally filed ballots must be counted. He added the only way to report those is to rescan them. Officials say the rescanning will not impact voters’ absentee ballots in any way. The move comes after Horry County Director of Elections Sandy Martin said on Wednesday afternoon, there were anywhere between 15,000 to 20,000 votes from mail-in absentee ballots that had yet to be counted in Horry County. On Thursday, her team focused on ensuring thousands of those ballots were rescanned. Martin attributed the delay to a “technical issue.” She said after scanning all of the ballots Tuesday night, including mail-in ballots, they ran into a problem around 2 a.m. Wednesday.

Full Article: Horry County election officials rescan thousands of absentee ballots after USB device malfunction

South Carolina: Lancaster County ‘mislabeled’ thumb drive causes 20,000 ballot recount | Morgan Newell/WBTV

Absentee ballots in one South Carolina county had to be recounted after a mislabeled thumb drive could not be connected with a voting machine. The 20,000 ballot recount took so long the results did not come in until 6:30 Wednesday morning. Every single absentee in-person vote got counted because this was human error rather than a computer’s mistake. Mary Ann Hudson, Elections Director in Lancaster County, has been running the election process in Lancaster County for years. So when she made a mistake on election night, she knew exactly what needed to be done. “It was just something that I had to make right,” says Hudson. “It was my job, it’s my responsibility, it was my human error.” The error? Hudson mislabeled a thumb drive for one of the absentee ballot voting machines. It means the results could have been off by hundreds if not thousands. “We could have tried to decide that maybe these ballots went to this thumb drive and these ballots went to this thumb drive but it was an all-or-none situation,” she says.

Full Article: Lancaster County ‘mislabeled’ thumb drive causes 20,000 ballot recount

South Carolina: Dorchester Coounty counting 14,600 absentee ballots by hand due to ballot printing error | Zak Koeske/The State

Dorchester County, which was unable to count about 14,600 mail-in absentee ballots Tuesday night due to a printing error, has a phalanx of people hand counting the ballots Wednesday, officials said. State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said about 40 people were working to hand count the ballots early Wednesday afternoon and that more would be joining them throughout the day. There is currently no estimate of when they will be finished, he said. Dorchester County elections director Todd Billman said Tuesday that officials discovered the ballot printing error Tuesday morning, after beginning to open the ballot envelopes and realizing they could not be read by ballot scanning machines due to incorrect timing marks. Despite the delay, Billman and the Election Commission have reassured voters that all votes will eventually be counted. “We want everyone to know that this will be an open process, we’ll keep you guys notified along the whole way of how we’re doing,” Billman said Tuesday. “I’m very thankful that we have a lot of workers here ready to make sure that your vote counts and that your vote is counted accurately.”

Full Article: Dorchester Co. counting 14,600 absentee ballots by hand | The State

South Carolina bought voting machines from ES&S despite years of issues | Chiara Eisner/The State

It’s difficult to talk for long about voting technology and election security in South Carolina before hearing the name of Dr. Duncan Buell. Since the state invested in its first electronic voting computers in 2004, Buell, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of South Carolina, has studied the performance of the technology in the region. He is one of only a couple of South Carolinians who belong to the Election Verification Network, a group of interdisciplinary voting experts from around the country, and serves on the Richland County Board of Voter Registration and Elections. So when he discovered that a panel of five people with limited technical expertise had been entrusted to choose the new technology that S.C. voters would use for many elections to come, Buell asked to present his knowledge at one of the group’s meetings in 2019, which were coordinated in part by the State Election Commission (SEC). He was added, then mysteriously taken off the agenda, he says. “That’s not in the citizens’ best interest, but he’s the sharpest critic (the SEC) had,” said Frank Heindel, a retired businessman from Charleston and self-described citizen activist who has requested hundreds of pages of documents from the government about S.C. elections. “I don’t think they wanted to hear it.” The decision is just one example of how for years, choices about voting technology in South Carolina have been made behind closed doors, say lawmakers, citizens and voting scholars. Scientists believe the technology products S.C. officials ultimately selected, including the voting machines now being used in the 2020 presidential election, have not always met the “gold standard” for safety.

Full Article: SC bought voting machines from ES&S despite years of issues | The State

South Carolina judge rules that local election boards cannot reject ballots due to mismatched signatures | Michelle Liu/Associated Press

A federal judge in South Carolina ruled Tuesday that local election boards cannot reject voters’ absentee ballots on the basis of mismatched signatures and must review and reprocess previously rejected ballots for the upcoming general election. The temporary injunction comes after a recent survey by the South Carolina State Election Commission discovered a handful of county election boards were conducting signature matching on ballots, though the state has no laws, rules or regulations on the practice. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel of Charleston wrote Tuesday that counties that wish to continue matching signatures on absentee ballots must seek approval of the court first. Voter outreach groups filed the lawsuit earlier this month, as the significant number of first-time absentee voters this election has brought due process issues to the forefront, said Christe McCoy-Lawrence, co-president of the League of Women Voters’ South Carolina chapter. The suit sought a permanent procedure for elections officials to notify voters and allow them to fix ballots with signature issues.

Full Article: Judge: SC cannot reject ballots due to mismatched signatures

South Carolina: Election officials agree to provide prepaid postage for absentee ballots | Jamie Lovegrove/Post and Courier

Return postage for all mailed absentee ballots in South Carolina’s 2020 general election will be prepaid after state election officials agreed to change the process, resolving one of several voting-related issues Democrats sued the state over. Several Democratic Party organizations and individual voters complained in federal court earlier this year about the requirement that voters pay for postage to return their absentee ballots by mail, arguing it presents an undue burden on the right to vote and effectively serves as a poll tax. In a joint agreement filed Wednesday, state Election Commission officials said they intend to provide prepaid postage on all absentee ballot return envelopes this year, regardless of the number of voters who qualify and take advantage of absentee voting by mail, eliminating the need for any further legal action on the issue. Shaundra Young Scott, the S.C. Democratic Party’s director of voter protection, said the party was pleased with the commission’s decision and hopes it will lead to a broader expansion of absentee ballots and vote by mail.

South Carolina: Democrats prep more lawsuits as Legislature punts on absentee voting expansion amid pandemic | Palmetto Politics | Jamie Lovegrove/Post and Courier

South Carolina Democrats are planning to file more lawsuits challenging the state’s absentee voting limitations during the coronavirus pandemic after lawmakers declined to expand ballot options for the general election during their brief legislative session this week. Republican leaders said they would consider taking action when they return in September if the pandemic is still at large, as health officials expect. They said they wanted to limit their brief time in the Statehouse this week to distributing federal funds for coronavirus relief. Democratic lawmakers questioned the decision to wait. “Why put off until tomorrow what we could do today?” asked state Rep. Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg. House members voted down two proposed amendments Wednesday to the coronavirus relief package that would have expanded absentee voting for November, largely along party lines.

South Carolina: Voting problems in primary prompt fears about November election | Kirk Brown and Conor Hughes/Greenville News

Calissa Brooks and Contrina Young are sisters who live together in Greenville, but they said they were given different ballots after arriving at a branch library on Anderson Road to vote in Tuesday’s primary. “We didn’t have the same options, and we live at the same address,” Brooks said Wednesday. “You show up to vote and then you can’t get the correct vote — that’s very frustrating.” Young said that when she asked questions about the different ballots, a poll worker “brushed her off.” Other voters shared similar stories with The Greenville News, including Susann Hellams Griffin. She said that although she and her son live in state House District 6, they were given ballots at Pendleton Elementary School that included candidates from state House District 8. “I am horrified by it, frankly,” said Griffin, who didn’t realize that she and her son received the wrong ballots until after they left the polling place. She said she called the Anderson County elections office and a staff member confirmed the mistake.

South Carolina: Election officials decry ‘confusion’ during primary | Meg Kinnard/Associated Press

Citing “extreme wait times and confusion at polling places” in some precincts in and around South Carolina’s capital city during Tuesday’s primary, state election officials said they are sending help before upcoming runoffs, including poll manager training and equipment testing. “The South Carolina State Election Commission is disappointed with the conduct of yesterday’s primaries in Richland County,” the Commission said in a release Wednesday. “We know election officials and poll managers were faced with the extraordinarily difficult task of conducting an election in a pandemic. But yet again, voters were unnecessarily subjected to extreme wait times and confusion at polling places.” The COVID-19 outbreak – which has infected more than 15,000 in South Carolina, killing more than 560 – created some questions as to how Tuesday’s elections would be carried out. In an effort both to alleviate numbers at the polls and assuage voters’ concerns about contagion, lawmakers recently passed a law allowing universal absentee voting because of the pandemic. A federal judge also temporarily removed a policy requiring that a witness sign an absentee voter’s ballot. But the relatively low-key state primaries in South Carolina still saw long lines at a few precincts, especially in Richland County, as polling places were combined because many longtime workers at sites didn’t take an assignment this year because of concerns of contracting the coronavirus.

South Carolina: Voters report races missing from ballots at Richland polls during primary | Greg Hadley/The State

On an unprecedented Election Day, reports of problems at polling stations across Richland County have been rolling in. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic that led to increased requests for absentee ballots, there has been a shortage of poll workers at combined precinct locations and issues with ballots, as well. “We’re not off to the start I’m looking for,” Terry Graham, interim director for the Richland County Elections Board, told The State on Tuesday morning. Graham could not immediately be reached for comment in the afternoon. Graham also told the newspaper that he went into the day knowing there would a shortage of poll workers but didn’t expect so many to be unavailable. State Rep. Beth Bernstein, whose 78th district is based in Richland County, said the number of poll workers was significantly down. “When we normally have 900 to 1,000 poll workers for our election, a month out we were at like 300 and something,” she said. “I do believe it came up to maybe 500 or 600, I don’t have those exact numbers, but it was significantly less.”

South Carolina: Absentee ballot requests ‘through the roof’ | John Monk/The State

With a week to go before the June 9 primary, people voting absentee across South Carolina will likely hit an all-time high in several categories, state and county elections officials predicted Monday. “These numbers are through the roof,” said Terry Graham, interim director of the Richland County Board of Voter Registration and Elections during an interview at his Harden Street office. “Right now, we have more than 22,320 absentee ballot requests,” Graham said. “But in 2016 for the primary, we only had 10,283 requests in all for absentee ballots.” Across town, at the S.C. State Election Commission, spokesman Chris Whitmire said, “One of the records we are going to set is the percentage of people participating in a statewide election by absentee.” The previous record for percentage of people voting absentee was in the 2016 general election, when 24% of all votes cast — or more than 500,000 votes — were absentee, Whitmire said.

South Carolina: State Supreme Court dismisses case that would expand absentee voting | Haley Walters/Greenville News

The South Carolina Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a case that sought to allow any voter to cast an absentee ballot in order to avoid polling places during the coronavirus pandemic. State democrats and the DCCC filed a lawsuit last month alleging the state’s absentee voting requirements would disenfranchise voters in upcoming elections. Absentee voting in South Carolina is usually available only for people who are away from their county and can’t vote in person; or if they meet other criteria, such as having a physical disability. The plaintiffs asked the state Supreme Court to interpret the physical disability requirement to include people who are practicing social distancing because of COVID-19. On May 12, the day the state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case, state lawmakers passed a measure to allow anyone to vote absentee in upcoming elections until July 1, 2020.

South Carolina: Absentee voters won’t need a witness due to coronavirus, court rules | Sara Coello/Post and Courier

A federal court ruled Monday that South Carolina must allow all voters to use absentee ballots without the signature of a witness to keep coronavirus from spreading at the polls in the June primary election. “Were it not for the current pandemic, then this element may have cut the other way,” U.S. District Court Judge Michelle Childs wrote in the finding. “Strikingly, the witness requirement would still apply to voters who have already contracted COVID-19, therefore affirmatively mandating that an infected individual … risk exposing the witness.” The state had required a witness signature for absentee voters, which several plaintiffs argued in two separate lawsuits would pose an unnecessary risk and could disenfranchise swaths of voters adhering to social distancing measures. “The court’s decision protects the safety and well-being of those voters who are most at risk from COVID-19,” said Deuel Ross, an attorney with the NAACP. “The temporary suspension of the witness signature requirement for absentee ballots removes a needless barrier that required people to violate social distancing protocols to vote.”

South Carolina: State considers cutting ties with printer after Charleston absentee ballots found in Maryland | Andy Shain/Post and Courier

South Carolina election officials could have counties cut ties to a Minnesota printer after about 20 Charleston County absentee ballots were found in Maryland this week. The ready-to-mail ballots have since made their way to Charleston-area voters, state and county election officials said, but it is just the latest problem with SeaChange Print Innovations, which prints and mails absentee ballots for 13 S.C. counties. Some Greenville County voters received the wrong absentee ballots this year when the Democratic presidential primary and a special election for sheriff were held 10 days apart, S.C. Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said. Some Charleston County voters received ballots that were folded in a way that could make them tougher to read by scanning machines, he said. The latest mishap has left the state election agency with little confidence that SeaChange can handle the surge in absentee voting this year as people practice social distancing to avoid contracting the coronavirus, Whitmire said.

South Carolina: Absentee ballot deadline, witness rule argued in federal court | John Monk/The State

After more than three hours of legal arguments Friday, a federal judge is now set to decide whether, because of the dangers of COVID-19, to eliminate two of South Carolina’s strict requirements concerning absentee ballots for the upcoming June 9 primary. “We are going to do our best to turn this around quickly because we know there’s a lot at stake for all the people involved,” said U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs to a more than dozen lawyers in a near empty courtroom and on a remote video hookup. There are two questions before Childs:

Whether to set aside the state legal requirement that a voter’s absentee ballot envelope must contain the signature and address of a witness to the voter’s ballot.

Whether to allow mailed-in ballots to still be counted if they reach elections officials after 7 p.m. on the day of an election. Currently, mailed-in absentee ballots must get to elections officials by that time or they aren’t counted.

South Carolina: Officials brace for hike in June 9 primary absentee ballots | Maayan Schechter/The State

South Carolina election officials say they’re preparing for a potential flood of mail-in absentee ballot requests after Gov. Henry McMaster on Wednesday signed into law a bill to expand absentee voting in the June primary due to COVID-19. Of the state’s more than 3.3 million registered primary voters, the State Election Commission as of Wednesday had received nearly 100,000 absentee ballot applications — already thousands more than the roughly 60,000 absentee ballots cast in each of the 2016 and 2018 statewide primaries, said commission spokesman Chris Whitmire. The number of ballots requested so far still lags far behind the number of absentee votes counted in a general election, especially one with a presidential race topping the ticket. For example, in the 2016 general election featuring the race between now President Donald Trump and then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, 516,755 South Carolinians voted absentee, Whitmire said. Of those votes cast, 139,914 were sent by mail. Another 370,072 ballots were cast by in-person absentee voting.

South Carolina: State expands absentee voting for June primaries due to coronavirus pandemic | Jamie Lovegrove/The Post and Courier

All South Carolina voters will be able to request a mail-in absentee ballot for the upcoming June 9 primaries due to the coronavirus pandemic after state lawmakers approved a short-term bill Tuesday that added the ongoing state of emergency as a legal justification. The unexpected move came just hours after a state Supreme Court hearing over the same issue, as South Carolina Democrats argued that the state’s limited absentee voting law would force many voters to risk their health in order to vote next month. Under South Carolina law, voters need to cite one of several reasons for voting absentee, such as physical disabilities, having to go to work or being out of town on election day. The list does not include fears about contracting a virus during a pandemic. But under the change passed Tuesday, South Carolinians can now vote absentee if a state of emergency is in effect within 46 days of the election. The June 9 primaries are 28 days away and any runoff elections would be on June 23, which is 42 days away. The change will expire on July 1, meaning it will only apply to the primaries. Some Democratic lawmakers argued that they should extend the measure for the November general election, but Republican leaders said they could consider that later in the year if the state of emergency is still in effect.

South Carolina: Lawmakers OK absentee voting expansion in June 9 primary out of COVID-19 fears | Maayan Schechter/The StateThe State

Any South Carolinian registered to vote in the upcoming June 9 primary who feared voting in-person due to the COVID-19 outbreak will be able to request an absentee ballot from the State Election Commission. State lawmakers on Tuesday fast-tracked legislation allowing registered primary voters to request an absentee ballot while the state is under an emergency order. The legislation — which Gov. Henry McMaster will sign, his spokesman said — sunsets on July 1, meaning it will not apply to the November general election. State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, said Tuesday that South Carolina voters were likely already asking for an absentee ballot for unrelated reasons than being concerned over catching the coronavirus. The State Election Commission does not police voters, for instance asking for a doctor’s note or airlines receipts to check if they traveled. “Quite frankly, people were probably doing it,” Hutto said.

South Carolina: Democrats, Republicans to clash in court over absentee voting in time of COVID | John Monk/Charlotte Observer

When the state Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday on a historic question — whether to expand absentee ballot voting in upcoming elections during the COVID-19 pandemic — the arguments themselves will be historic. “These arguments will be the first time the court has used video web conferencing to conduct an argument,” a note on the Supreme Court Judicial Branch website said. All or most of the lawyers and justices will be in separate locations and visible on a computer screen. The issue has come before the court because of the highly contagious and sometimes fatal virus, as well as the increased threat the disease poses to people in their sixties and older and others with underlying health conditions.Moreover, African Americans have been stricken and have died at significantly higher rates than people of other races. The virus is easily spread by small droplets in infected peoples’ breaths, coughs and sneezes. The dangers from COVID-19 means the high court should interpret existing law to make it clear that people wanting to stay away from large gatherings for fear of getting sick should be allowed to do so, Democrats say. Republicans say the legislature should decide whether to expand absentee balloting.

South Carolina: Lawmakers face pressure to address June 9 primary voting | Maayan Schecter/The State

Poll workers are on short supply in some counties, candidates are spending money pushing voters to cast absentee ballots, and lawsuits against the state in federal and state courts aim to settle the question: Can someone vote absentee to avoid going to the polls and potentially catching the novel coronavirus? These are the realities S.C. lawmakers face as they return to work Tuesday, weeks after the state’s Republican governor and some legislative leaders said they saw no reason to take the legislative action required to expand the reasons for voting absentee or postpone the primary entirely. Though turnout for statewide primaries tends to be low, preventing crowds, the COVID-19 outbreak in South Carolina has made state officials turn their attention to how to make voters feel safer at the polls, even into November. At the same time, in fear of catching the virus, hundreds of poll workers — many of whom fit the age most vulnerable to the disease — have told county election officials they’ll pass on working this election, putting officials in a bind over whether they’ll have enough people to man polling places for the state’s June 9 primary. Candidates have traded in traditional door-knocking for an increase in mailers, phone calls, a flurry of social media activity and virtual town halls, and candidates — particularly those trying to knock down incumbents — are encouraging voters to ask for an absentee ballot even though currently there is no pandemic excuse among the qualifications to vote absentee in the state.

South Carolina: Citing COVID-19 threat to African Americans, 3rd lawsuit filed to expand mail voting | John Monk and Emma Dumain/The State

Alleging drastic circumstances — especially heightened dangers to African Americans — in the time of the coronavirus, a third lawsuit seeking to expand all voters’ rights to vote absentee in South Carolina’s June 9 primary and November general election was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Columbia. This lawsuit — brought by the Democratic National Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee and the S.C. Democratic Party — is the third in two weeks seeking expanded absentee ballot rights. The lawsuit alleges that racial bias in S.C. laws and history make it difficult for African Americans to vote, especially during the threat of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s also the second suit filed by the DCCC the S.C. Democratic Party, which a week earlier filed a suit with the S.C. State Supreme Court asking for an expansion of mail-in voting along with two S.C. Democratic candidates running in contested primaries in June.

South Carolina: South Carolina GOP wants to weigh in on coronavirus voting lawsuit | John Munk and Emma Dumain/The State

The South Carolina Republican Party is trying to intervene in a potentially historic legal action in the S.C. Supreme Court where Democrats are seeking a high court ruling to expand absentee voting this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. “The SC GOP simply wants a seat at the table to ensure all stakeholders have a voice in this matter of public interest and importance,” the Republican Party lawyers said in their motion. The Supreme Court has not yet said whether it will hear the case — a move called original jurisdiction —without sending it to a lower court first. Last week, the South Carolina Democratic Party joined the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and two S.C. Democratic candidates in filing a legal action against the State Election Commission in the Supreme Court asking for a ruling that would — because of the “unprecedented” threat posed by the highly communicable and sometimes deadly coronavirus — in effect greatly expand the number of people able to vote by absentee ballot.

South Carolina: Could South Carolina be like Wisconsin? Elections proceed amid mixed messages | Eric Connor and Genna Contino/Greenville News

The statewide June primaries will forge ahead even as uncertainty looms over how voters can best prevent spreading the novel coronavirus or avoid having to vote in person at all. The pandemic has created confusion over absentee voting, and election officials say that issue and social-distancing measures could mean delays that right now can’t fully be measured but must be accounted for as early voting begins next week. South Carolina is trying to avoid the confusion and monumental delays that Wisconsin saw in its primaries earlier this month, when voters had to choose between risking their safety and exercising their right to vote. Voters in South Carolina for years have been allowed to cast absentee ballots — whether in person or by mail — so long as they meet one of 18 exceptions. You can be sick. You can be on vacation. You can have a conflict because of work. But none of the exceptions expressly includes a provision for social distancing or fear of infection brought on by the pandemic and unprecedented shutdown of society.

South Carolina: Fear of COVID-19 isn’t a reason to vote by mail now, but South Carolina officials want guidance | Joseph Bustos/The State

State elections officials want to know whether voters can request an absentee ballot because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It’s a question they have asked the S.C. Attorney General’s Office to answer. In an April 13 letter, the South Carolina State Election Commission sought the opinion on whether voters worried about catching the coronavirus, who prefer not to vote in person in order to limit possible exposure to the virus, are allowed to ask for an absentee ballot. The state also is facing two lawsuits attempting to settle the question. Registered S.C. voters may request absentee ballots if they work in a county other than where they live and vote, or if they are sick, disabled or in the hospital; tending to someone who is sick or disabled; going to be on vacation on the day of the election; or over the age of 65, among other reasons. State law does “not expressly address voters who may not be sick or confirmed as having COVID-19, but must still risk exposure by physically attending a polling place on election day,” Elections Commission Executive Director Marci Andino wrote to the Attorney General Alan Wilson.

South Carolina: Citing coronavirus, DCCC sues State to allow vote by mail | Emma Dumain/The State

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is leading a lawsuit against the South Carolina Election Commission to allow residents to vote by mail in elections through the end of the year amid fears that coronavirus-related social distancing mandates will still be in place in the coming months. The national party’s main fundraising apparatus for U.S. House candidates filed the suit Wednesday asking the state to expand absentee voting opportunities in advance of the scheduled June 9 primary and November general election. “Our leaders should be using every available tool to ensure South Carolina voters don’t have to choose between protecting their health and participating in our democracy,” DCCC chairwoman Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., said in a statement announcing the suit. “We’ll keep fighting to ensure voters can safely and freely participate in our democracy during this time of uncertainty.” Under current South Carolina law, all voters can request and cast absentee ballots. They must, however, have a specific excuse that adheres to a set of more than a dozen, established reasons for not being able to vote in person on Election Day.

South Carolina: Coronavirus could impact elections, including possible delay of June party primaries | Caitlin Byrd/The Post and Courier

South Carolina election officials may recommend postponing the statewide June 9 primary, citing concerns about safe and secure elections amid the spread of the contagious new coronavirus. Chris Whitmire, spokesman for the S.C. Election Commission, confirmed the discussions to The Post and Courier on Tuesday. “We’re concerned about the June primaries and the general election, and really all of the elections that are scheduled to occur for 2020,” Whitmire said. The statewide primary will determine who will be the respective Republican and Democratic nominees for different races, including the high profile battles for U.S. Senate and U.S. House, as well as for other contests. All 124 seats in the state House of Representatives are up for reelection this year, along with the 46 seats in the state Senate. The discussions here mirror conversations among election officials nationwide.

South Carolina: Richland County selects new elections director. Can she whip the office into shape? | Bristow Marchant/The State

After almost a year, Richland County is close to having a new elections director. The county elections board voted Thursday to offer the job to Tammy Smith, currently the deputy elections director in Wilson County, Tennessee. Smith would be the latest person to hold what has become a revolving door position, with seven people serving in the position in the past seven years. The county has struggled with long lines and lost ballots in past elections. “She’s ready to hit the ground running,” said board vice chair Craig Plank. “She’ll be able to watch things with meticulous detail.” Smith would be the first full-time director since Rokey Suleman was fired last May after two years heading the department. That decision came after Richland County failed to count more than 1,000 ballots in the 2018 general election, and the entire election board was fired by Gov. Henry McMaster. Current board chair Charles Austin said Smith’s biggest challenge will be restoring staff morale and public confidence in the office.

South Carolina: Richland County board votes to hire new elections director | Chrisa Trainor/The Post and Courier

After nearly nine months of searching, Richland County will look to Tennessee for its new elections director On Thursday night, the Richland County Election Commission unanimously voted to offer the director of elections and voter registration position to Tammy Smith, who is currently the assistant administrator of elections in Wilson County, Tennessee. Wilson County has a population of more than 136,000 and is just east of Nashville. Election commission vice chairman Craig Plank said Thursday that Smith would be notified of the board’s decision “as soon as possible.” Plank says he feels confident Smith will accept the post and that she “has expressed her desire to be an active part of Richland County.” The election commission chose Smith over the other finalist for the position, Terry Graham, the former Chester County elections director who has served as Richland County’s interim elections director since July 2019.

South Carolina: Election leaders call for extra time to count absentee ballots | Caroline Balchunas/WCIV

There were no major hiccups during Saturday’s primary election, but there’s some who say it could be a much different story in November’s general election. South Carolina’s new voting machines may work efficiently, but election officials say counting absentee ballots may be an issue. The State Election Commission noted a sharp increase in absentee voting ahead of Saturday’s Democratic primary. “What’s different about this new system is we would have to open up each ballot, not just the mail ballots. So, if you come and cast a ballot in person, we now have to open up those ballots,” said Isaac Cramer, Project Manager for the Charleston County Board of Elections. “That took a lot more time than we had anticipated, and we believe this might be a problem for future elections when we have more absentee ballots cast. In presidential election years, we have a huge turnout of absentee.” Cramer said in-person absentee ballots must now be printed, sealed in an envelope and placed in a ballot box. Under current law, absentee ballots cannot be opened and counted until 9 a.m. on Election Day. He said they had roughly 60,000 absentee ballots in the 2016 general election and they’re expected upwards of 80,000 this time around.

South Carolina: Doublecheck that ballot: Controversial voting machines make their primary debut in South Carolina | Eric Geller/Politico

While the paper-based machines are supposed to make the vote more resistant to digital tampering, they also introduce new uncertainty into an election already marked by widespread warnings that Russia is determined to interfere in yet another U.S. presidential race. Many South Carolina voters and precinct workers will be encountering the new machines for the first time — less than four weeks after the Democrats’ bungled Iowa caucus showed the pitfalls of introducing new technology into a high-stakes election. The technology behind the ballot-printing touchscreen machines has also raised hackles among cyber researchers, election security advocates and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. They say the machines may be more secure than the totally paperless systems still used in 11 states — but they’re not as safe as paper ballots that voters mark by hand. South Carolina lawmakers decided in June to buy a model called ExpressVote from the country’s largest election technology company, Election Systems & Software. Counties in at least seven states — Florida, Indiana, Kansas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas — have also replaced their paperless machines with the ExpressVote since 2018, according to a POLITICO survey. Delaware bought another model from ES&S, called the ExpressVote XL, and Georgia has purchased similar machines from another manufacturer.