Horry County absentee voting precinct has issues scanning ballots

Updated: Oct. 15, 2020 at 8:36 PM EDT
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LITTLE RIVER, SC (WMBF) - In-person absentee voting is a new option in this year’s election due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While it offers another method for voters, early issues with ballot scanners are cause for concern. For example, the ballot scanner at the North Strand Recreation Center has shut down several times this week.

“I felt really uneasy, in this political climate, I felt really uneasy about it and my wife felt even worse," said David Tomblin, a voter in Horry County.

Tomblin took advantage of absentee voting in person this year, but a long line wasn’t the problem he had when casting his ballot.

“The ballot is printed out, showing exactly who you voted for, you take it to the scanner or hand it to a poll worker," he said.

When Tomblin made it to the end of the line, the scanner wasn’t working, so his ballot was placed in an emergency slot.

Sandy Martin, the Horry County Director of Registration and Elections, said that’s exactly what is supposed to happen.

“When the poll workers close up, what they do is, three poll workers take the ballots out of that emergency bin," she said. "They scan them, then they go back to make sure the numbers match.”

Martin says precinct poll workers are instructed to continue voting as they wait for someone to fix the machine or it comes back online.

She says the county could be at risk of an audit if all ballot numbers aren’t accounted for.

Drew Kurlowski, an assistant professor of politics at Coastal Carolina University, said despite some of the scanner issues Horry County has seen so far, he’s confident the state made a good choice implementing newer machines two years ago.

“From my professional point of view, the system that’s in there now, these optical scan devices that we’re using, the DS200 ballot scanners, are far and away much more secure than the touch screen DRE systems that we were using in previous elections," said Kurlowski.

Tomblin isn’t convinced and feels like he should’ve been told the scanner was down before he ever went in to vote.

He’s just hoping his vote will be counted, along with everyone else’s.

“I hope and pray we’ll be okay, I believe we probably will be, but I am suspicious," said Tomblin.

“I would urge people, at the first part, to trust in that system, but if something feels awry about your voting experience, do take it up with the poll workers and do work with them to try to find a resolution," said Kurlowski.

The state has created an absentee and provisional ballot tracking system.

Click here for more information and learn how track the progress of your ballot.

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