Horry County election officials rescan thousands of absentee ballots after USB device malfunction

Updated: Nov. 5, 2020 at 11:32 PM EST
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CONWAY, S.C. (WMBF) - The South Carolina Election Commission instructed the Horry County Registration & Elections office to rescan absentee ballots following a “data transfer issue,” officials said.

“ES&S, the scanning equipment manufacturer, assisted the elections office throughout the day with the procedure which began this morning [Thursday] around 10 a.m.,” Horry County Government said in a press release.

South Carolina Elections Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said all legally filed ballots must be counted. He added the only way to report those is to rescan them.

RELATED STORY | Horry County Election officials report technical issues with some mail-in ballot scanning

Officials say the rescanning will not impact voters' absentee ballots in any way.

The move comes after Horry County Director of Elections Sandy Martin said on Wednesday afternoon, there were anywhere between 15,000 to 20,000 votes from mail-in absentee ballots that had yet to be counted in Horry County. On Thursday, her team focused on ensuring thousands of those ballots were rescanned.

Martin attributed the delay to a “technical issue." She said after scanning all of the ballots Tuesday night, including mail-in ballots, they ran into a problem around 2 a.m. Wednesday.

“We were so frustrated,” Martin said. “We were so excited to be finished, I mean it was Wednesday morning but that was still good for the amount of absentee votes we had."

Martin said her team discovered there was a problem when it came time to complete the last step, which involves transferring the data to the South Carolina Election Commission.

“We finished counting all the ballots, we had everything tallied up,” Martin said. “We pulled the USB sticks from the 450 scanners which is what we use to count absentee by mail, [but] when we took them into the computer to transfer the data over to the state website, it didn’t transfer. So we had a representative here from ES&S to try and figure out what the issue was. They’ve been working on it [since] last night. The state decided we needed to go ahead and rescan our ballots so we could electronically transfer our results in. We could of hand-entered them because we do have the results but because it’s such a high profile election, the state preferred we rescan them so we could send them electronically.”

Martin said not all of the absentee ballots had to be rescanned.

“It was only the by-mail and it’s only half the by-mail. We had actually scanned some, my staff did, into the DS 200′s which is what you use at the precincts," Martin said. "So it’s only the ones that was run through our scanners that we have to re-do, that’s between 17,000 to18,000 ballots.”

Martin confirmed, ES&S completed the process of rescanning those ballots Thursday afternoon. Around 5 p.m. Thursday, the South Carolina Elections Commission website reflected 100% of Horry County votes as submitted.

On Friday at 10 a.m., The Horry County Board of Voter’s Registration and Elections will meet to certify the election results.

Martin added rescanning thousands of absentee ballots the night before will have no impact on the election certification.

“The results are always unofficial until the certification," Martin said.

She also told our news team, she doesn’t believe the nearly 18,000 absentee ballots that were scanned in the state election system on Thursday, drastically changed any of the election results for the county.

“I don’t think so,” Martin said. “The majority of our candidates [ran] unopposed anyway and from what I remember the ones that weren’t unopposed there was a pretty good difference between them. We’re only talking 18,000 votes and they wouldn’t all be from one particular district.”

Some people expressed concerns about whether the rescanning of absentee ballots meant their votes were counted.

“The votes were counted,” Martin said. “Everything was counted, scanned and done. The only problem we had was transferring the results from the USB stick on to the computer. We don’t know if there was an issue with the USB drive we used or what but that’s the reason we had to rescan them.”

After a somewhat bumpy ride during this 2020 General Election season, Martin said she feels good about the process wrapping up soon.

“It’s good to see the finish line, it’s been a long time coming,” Martin said.

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