Horry County election officials allowed to open, but not count, mail-in ballots before Election Day

Horry County election officials open mail-in absentee ballots

CONWAY, S.C. (WMBF) - Election officials gathered at the Horry County Office of Elections and Voter Registration early Sunday morning to start opening mail-in absentee ballots.

Workers only opened the outside envelopes and did not count the ballots themselves. Typically, no part of the mail-in ballots are allowed to be opened before Election Day, but exceptions were made this year. The counting process for mail-in ballots will begin at 7 a.m. Tuesday, according to Horry County Director of Elections Sandy Martin.

“Well it takes on step out of the process on Election Day," she said. “On Election Day we still have to open the inside envelope, we have to take the ballot out, unfold it, take the stub off, and scan it to get it counted.”

Martin added that county employees will also help count the mail-in ballots on Tuesday to alleviate the workload off of poll workers.

Martin said they’re anticipating to open up to 40,000 mail-in ballots on Sunday, and will have a final count of just exactly how many voted by mail later as ballots continue to come in.

While there’s much more to be done on Election Day, Martin said she hopes getting mail-in ballots counted on top of regular votes will make processing results slightly quicker.

“We took several hours work away from it, but there’s still a lot to be done on Election Day,” she said.

Ballots without witness signatures have already been sorted out of the ballots election officials opened Sunday. The signatures are on the outside of the ballots, so it can be sorted before opening.

Martin said while she doesn’t know how long it will take, the goal is to have all votes counted Tuesday before they go home.

And while there’s still one more day of absentee voting on Monday, Martin said, turnout has already been high ahead of Election Day on Tuesday.

“I’ve been here for 36 years, and I have never seen anything like this," she said. “The magnitude of this for the absentee. We voted already over 95,000 people already.”

Copyright 2020 WMBF. All rights reserved.