CONWAY, S.C. (WMBF) - This budget season, Horry County approved adding a full-time and part-time employee to the county’s Voters Registration and Elections Department.
The additional position brings the department to a total of five full-time employees.
Director Sandy Martin said the added position puts the office back to the staffing level it had before 2008 when it lost an employee.
While staffing hasn’t changed, 100,000 more residents have moved to Horry County in the last 15 years, according to the county’s Imagine 2040 plan.
“When I started here in ’84 we got up to 40,000 registered voters and that was big deal back then,” Martin said.
Horry County has around 234,700 registered voters, according to the South Carolina Election Commission.
Martin requested additional help before but the request has never been approved.
“With this new system, they understood there is going to be a lot more responsibility with it and you know different various things that we have to do and all, so they finally agreed that we needed a new person,” Martin said.
Earlier this year, South Carolina spent more than $50 million to upgrade voting machines across the state.
Martin said the new staff member will primarily be responsible for assisting with the new system.
Despite the additional positions, Horry County’s election department staffing remains low compared to the size of other counties in South Carolina.
Charleston County has 14 full-time employees in its elections office, according to its 2020 budget. The county has around 288,000 registered voters, according to the state.
Spartanburg County funds 17 employees in its office, eight of which are full-time positions, according to its current budget.
Greenville County funded 12 full-time positions last year and Lexington County has 16 positions.
Meanwhile, York County has less voters than Horry County but funding for around six full-time positions.
Florence County also has four positions, but also less than half the number of voters compared to Horry County.
Despite the comparisons, Martin remains positive.
“We were fortunate enough to get one. We’re going to continue each year to budget for another and hope for good results for the next time,” she said.
The county’s election office’s budget increased by $232,843 for this fiscal year.
Martin said in addition to funding the two staff members, the budget increase will cover wages for poll workers and other election expenses for the three county-wide elections scheduled this fiscal year.
On Tuesday’s election, the county is only responsible for Surfside Beach’s election and the Horry-Georgetown border election. The seven other elections will run through the cities, but the county office will still help with resources and money.
“The cities provide some of their supplies like pens, basic things, but we have to supply their voter lists, the laptops, the machines,” Martin explained.
After the election, the cities will reimburse the county for costs for things like ballots and seals.
Martin estimates an election like Myrtle Beach City Council ends up costing around $1,500.
However, the new machines this year will increase the cost of elections.
“With this new system, there is ballot cards involved. It’s going to run around 12 cents per person to vote based on that card because we have to purchase those,” Martin explained. “They’ll have to pay for their ballots. There is a lot more seals to this new equipment than there were with the old equipment, so they’ll be additional costs with seals.”
Martin said she’s unsure how much the new machines will increase cities’ bills.