Elections

Most poll glitches confined to busy Beaufort polling place

Heavy turnout and a few problems with ballots marked Election Day in Beaufort County.

At least two voters who live in Beaufort's Pigeon Point neighborhood said Tuesday they should have received ballots allowing them to vote for a Board of Education District 7 candidate -- Bill Evans or Robert White -- but instead received ballots for the District 11 seat, for which Fred Washington Jr. ran unopposed.

The same voters said they received ballots listing incumbent County Councilwoman Laura Von Harten of District 11 instead of incumbent County Councilman Paul Sommerville of District 7. Both candidates were unopposed.

Other voters said they should have received ballots that included S.C. Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, who is running unopposed for the District 124 seat, but instead received ballots that included the District 121 race, in which Rep. Ken Hodges, D-Green Pond, ran unopposed.

All voted at Beaufort's Charles Lind Brown Activity Center, which is the polling place for three precincts.

Scott Marshall, executive director of the Beaufort County Board of Voter Registration and Elections, said Tuesday evening he was not aware of problems with the Evans-White race and County Council seats. He said it's possible voters might have been misinformed about which candidates should've been on their ballot. Marshall confirmed human error deprived some voters of the chance to vote for Erickson.

He said the mistake likely originated at the voter registration office when paid staff and volunteers prepared packets for polling locations. After checking in, voters were given a slip of paper that corresponded with their House district to take to the voting booth.

"It was a human error where the precinct was not issued the (slips of paper) that corresponded with House District 124," Marshall said. "Instead everyone was given a (slip of paper) that corresponded with House District 121."

Elections officials probably won't know how many ballots were affected by the error until later in the week, Marshall said. He said elections officials will examine how the problem occurred and change the process if necessary.

He called the issue "significant" but expressed relief that Erickson did not face opposition.

Beaufort resident Stephen Murray said he and his wife determined after they voted they had received incorrect ballots in the Evans-White and County Council contests.

"I would've really liked to have had my vote counted (in the Evans-White race)," Murray said. "I felt pretty strongly about one of them."

Among other issues:

  • At least one voter trying to write in Julie Bell's name for a school board seat was unable to do so because the "L" button on a touch-screen malfunctioned, Marshall said. A poll manager instructed the voter to enter Bell's initials instead, and Marshall said he will explain the situation to canvassers when they meet Friday.
  • Others complained they couldn't see which two Beaufort City Council candidates they had voted for after filling out their ballot. Voters could still page back to review their selections if they wanted, Marshall said. He said officials "will try to address" the matter for the next election.
  • Despite the issues, Marshall said he thought "things went very well" considering turnout that he estimated would be "well above" his expectation of 45 to 50 percent of registered voters.

    Lines formed before some polling places opened at 7 a.m. and remained at many when polls closed at 7 p.m.

    Mike Waller of Hilton Head said he and his wife, Donna, gave up waiting in long lines at Christ Lutheran Church. She tried four times -- and he tried once -- before deciding not to wait in lines they estimated would take an hour and a half, he said.

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