Process of counting mail-in versus in-person absentee ballots

Absentee Ballots: Next Steps

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Although roughly 80,000 absentee ballots have been returned so far in Horry County, they won’t be totaled until Election Day.

Horry County Voter Registration and Elections Director Sandy Martin said tallying mail-in ballots is a much harder process compared to other voting methods.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, 378,000 mail-in ballots were returned in South Carolina, while 464,000 mail-in ballots were issued and 673,000 in-person ballots were issued or returned.

Martin said in-person absentee voting is much easier than mail-in. When someone comes in and votes in person, they vote on the machine. Their vote lives in the scanner and won’t be totaled until Election Day.

But mail-in ballots are much different.

“But when you do mail-in ballots, it comes in and we have to key it in when it’s received, then we have to outside envelope, open an inside envelope. We have to take the ballot out, unfold it, tear the stub off and then we have to scan it, so there’s a lot of work that goes in mail-in ballots," Martin said.

State lawmakers approved the outer envelope to be removed on Sunday, Nov. 1.

While Martin said taking away this step for Election Day will help, it won’t mean a major shift in the timeline because they still have the other steps to complete.

On the morning of the election, officials will begin the process of opening absentee ballots and scanning them. Martin said she’s sure this will continue past 7 p.m. on election night because of the number of absentee ballots submitted.

When it comes to the results and having them completed, Martin said there are multiple factors they’re working with. This includes how fast they can read ballots or potential issues with the scanner reading them, which would mean they have to transfer those to another ballot.

While her hope is to have results by Wednesday, she said it’s not guaranteed.

“We’ve never seen an election like this, so I have no idea and no prediction as to when we will be finished," Martin said. "We are going to do our job thoroughly, not gonna rush to get it done. We are going to do it like we are supposed to and when we are finished, we’re finished.”

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