Voting wait times focus of legislative delegation meeting
Nov 13, 2012 (Aiken Standard - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Long wait times reported during last Tuesday's general election was just one of the concerns the Aiken County Legislative Delegation addressed at its meeting Monday.
After reporting statistics from this year's special, primary, and general elections -- including that last week's voter turnout was 67 percent -- County Registration and Elections Executive Director Cynthia Holland was peppered with questions about long waiting lines at polling locations and voter irregularities.
District 25 Sen. Shane Massey said constituents reported to him at the precinct on Ascauga Lake Road that their wait time, with five ballot machines open, was one hour and 30 minutes.
"Why is there such a long wait, and do we need more machines People weren't all that happy," he said.
Holland said she didn't believe they had enough machines for Tuesday's election. Aiken County had approximately 430 machines for Tuesday, and 20 were left at the elections office in case they were needed for backup.
"We need more voting machines. I have asked for them," she said.
County Administrator Clay Killian reported that Holland has asked for 10 additional machines and four Americans with Disabilities Act machines, totaling $31,000. He has said her request was denied due to budget limitations.
Under South Carolina state law, each precinct should carry one machine for every 250 registered voters.
"I was not able to visit all my precincts because my phone kept ringing. Citizens were fed up with the long lines. We don't need that," said delegation chairman Rep. Roland Smith.
Newly-elected District 24 Sen. Tom Young said he was told there was a wait time at Cedar Creek Church of over two hours.
House District 86 Rep. Bill Taylor said poll managers had a hard time connecting with Registration and Elections staff by phone on Tuesday when they had a problem.
"They just gave up. They said, 'We just made our own decisions,'" Taylor said.
Four phone lines were open Tuesday for poll managers to call, according to Holland, and four lines were open for voter problems.
"We tried to answer them in order. I don't know what happened. We did the best we could," she said.
Poll managers pulled up the wrong ballot styles in North Augusta, which prevented some people from not being able to vote on the North Augusta Sunday alcohol sales referendum. The problem was discovered after 400 people had already voted.
In all, 8,462 votes were cast on the local question with or 67.7 percent voting "yes." Holland has said they are unaware of how many voters received the wrong ballot, but even if all 400 had, it would not affect the outcome of the "yes" vote.
"I suggest contacting your poll managers by email and asking about problems," Massey said. "There may be another meeting because I want to help. I want you to succeed, and that means people having a good experience at the polls."
District 26 Sen. Nikki Setzler believes early voting would help with long lines at the polls.
Early voting, which South Carolina does not currently allow, permits any registered voter to cast a ballot before the election without excuse or justification. Absentee voting differs from early voting in that absentee voting is open only to those who meet certain qualifications for why they will not be present at their precinct on Election Day.
"Early voting would help tremendously," Holland said.
In other business Monday, every member of the legislative delegation was sworn into office: Smith, Massey, Young, Setzler, Taylor, House District 83 Rep. Bill Hixon, House District 82 Rep. Bill Clyburn, and newly-elected House District 81 Rep. Don Wells.
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