Printing company reveals Horry County absentee ballot mistake ‘was an extremely rare error’
HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – The South Carolina Elections Commission (SEC) sent its findings into the absentee ballot error to Horry County leaders.
The Horry County Council voted in favor of asking the SEC, the State Law Enforcement Division and the South Carolina Legislature to investigate why 1,377 Democratic absentee ballots were sent to Republican voters before the runoff election.
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The SEC said it received the request from Horry County Council on Sept. 16 and investigated the matter with Sun Solutions, the ballot printing company.
WMBF News obtained the letter that the SEC sent last week to Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner that provides the findings of the investigation.
It found that the Horry County Board of Voter Registration and Elections supplied Sun Solutions with a data file for those who requested absentee ballots for the June primary runoff.
The letter states that while the data provided by Horry County was correct, there was an error when Sun Solutions processed the data file which caused all voters who requested an absentee ballot to receive a Democratic ballot.
“According to Sun Solutions, the error was caused by a network drop while the Horry County file was processing. It appears the error occurred only while Horry County’s data was being processed, and not while any other county’s data was being processed,” the letter states. “According to Sun Solutions, they believe the error was an extremely rare but unfortunate occurrence.”
Sun Solutions informed the SEC that it has added additional measures to its process so that if a similar issue happens again then the appropriate staff will be notified and any errors will be identified and corrected.
Also in the investigation, the Horry County Council asked how Sun Solutions was selected and approved by the SEC.
According to the SEC, before August 2020, there was only one approved vendor to offer absentee ballot mailing services. But due to COVID-19 and the increase of voting absentee by mail, more counties expressed an interest in contracting with a vendor. This caused the SEC to be concerned whether one vendor could handle the surge of absentee ballot requests.
The SEC published a Request of Information (RFI), looking for vendors, and Sun Solutions and Taylor Print Solutions responded.
“Both underwent testing with the voting system vendor to ensure they could produce quality ballots that could be read by voting system scanners with no issues,” the SEC letter explained.
A committee reviewed the RFI and approved both vendors.
Since that time, county elections boards have been able to choose between three vendors for absentee ballot printing and mailing.
The director of the Horry County Board of Voter Registration, Sandy Martin, said that the county has decided to mail ballots in-house for the upcoming November election, and will not be using the vendors provided by the state.
The completion of this investigation comes just as another absentee ballot issue has come up in South Carolina.
Election officials in Spartanburg County revealed nearly 700 voters received incorrect absentee ballots, and the vendor that was used was Sun Solutions.
Chris Whitmire, a spokesman for the SEC, said there are no plans to change of list of vendors for the current upcoming election, but the list for future elections will be considered at a later time.
Whitmire added that county election boards have the choice to mail in their own ballots or to contract with one of the three SEC-approved vendors.
“Of course, any specific vendor’s performance could have an impact on a board’s decision to choose to use a vendor, or stop using a specific vendor and choose another,” Whitmire said.
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