Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Richland County's election director says an employee's misreading of a document likely led to the incorrect number of voting machines going to precincts on election day.
Lillian McBride spoke before a called meeting of the Richland County Legislative Delegation Monday to answer questions about the mishaps that led to long lines on November 6th. She was joined by Richland County Election Commission Chair Liz Crum.
Both began the hearing by apologizing to the public.
For more than three hours, the pair answered questions from the delegation, which is comprised of state representatives and senators elected in Richland County. At the end, many lawmakers said they left with more questions than answers.
Chief among the questions asked--why some precincts had too few machines.
Crum said they had calculated that 864 machines would be needed on November 6th, and that on election day, there were 935 working machines which could have been deployed.
McBride said a spreadsheet was created that detailed how many of those machines should go to each precinct. At some point afterward, a decision was made to change the number of personal voting ballot devices (PEBs) sent to precincts. (The devices are the cartridges that are slid in an out of machines to turn them on and enable voting).
An employee saw the request for a change in the number of PEBs, and misinterpreted those numbers as the number of voting machines that should be sent to each district.
In addition, many machines were left in a warehouse. When pressed for answers on why that happened, McBride again apologized but did not have specifics.
The result of the number mix-up led to some precincts having far fewer machines than needed, causing wait times as long as six hours.
McBride also said there were batteries inside the machines and flash cards that malfunctioned, and at this point, although there's no explanation for why so many had problems.
McBride and Crum also said they have no numbers on exactly how many machines went to each precinct, or how many malfunctioned.
Another technical problem addressed Monday was the scanner which was able to properly tabulate the absentee ballots. Crum and McBride said there was a discrepancy between the spacing of the words on some ballots, which caused the scanner to misread them. Systems administrators with the company that makes the scanner ultimately devised a solution which allowed the votes to be counted.
Crum, however, assured that despite the problems, all votes were counted.
In the wake of the election mishaps, McBride promised multiple times to make changes.
"Our goal is to fix problems, and make sure what happened November 6th never happens again," she said.
Lawmakers at the hearing also acknowledged that they'll have to solve one problem: precincts which are too large. State law stipulates that there are 1,500 voters assigned to a precinct; some precincts in Richland County, however, have over 3,000 voters. It's the delegation's responsibility to change the size of those precincts and make sure they aren't too large.
A detailed report is being prepared by Election Commission Attorney Steve Hamm on the voting problems. The report is expected to be completed in 30 days.