Ballots cast by 1,040 Richland County voters were not counted in last November’s election — another voting mishap in the state’s capital county. While the missing ballots did not affect the outcome of any races and accounted for less than 1 percent of the 142,805 votes cast in the county, the failure to count all votes damages public trust, experts said. “It’s sends a very bad message that people cast a vote, and it might not matter,” Duncan Buell, a University of South Carolina professor who researches voting machines, said Thursday. “This is a big deal.” Richland County missed 832 in-person absentee votes from two voting machines that malfunctioned and 208 votes from two machines at two precincts that were closed incorrectly, Richland County Elections Director Rokey Suleman said.
County election officials thought tallies from all four machines were included in totals sent to the state, he said.
Suleman said the county’s vote-counting process is unacceptable and being changed. “We are very troubled about what happened,” he said. “We’re not going to allow this to happen again.”
Another county failed to count all votes in November. Bamberg County missed 402 absentee votes because of human error, state Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said. The missing Bamberg ballots did not change the outcome of any election, he said.