It's alarming that at least 13 residents of Windmill Harbour in unincorporated Beaufort County erroneously voted in the Town of Hilton Head Island's mayoral race Nov. 4.
The voters weren't to blame. Because of a coding error made by the Beaufort County Board of Elections and Registration, the voters were directed to cast votes in the race that pitted incumbent Mayor Drew Laughlin against three challengers.
Luckily, the small number of bogus votes did not affect the race's outcome. At least that was the case this time. It could be a much larger problem -- one that undermines an election -- next time.
The error is a red flag for county elections director Marie Smalls, who has been in the job for less than two years, and her staff that more must be done to ensure all addresses are correctly classified in the voter registration records. Smalls has said she thinks the error was limited to just one street, but is re-checking all addresses leading up to Tuesday's runoff between Laughlin and David Bennett.
We would encourage her to triple check.
The mistake comes on the heels of Smalls' office sending out more than 100 incorrect absentee ballots to Hilton Head residents, asking them to pick "up to two" candidates in the race for a District 4 seat on the Hilton Head Public Service District Commission. Only one seat was open. Smalls apologized for the error, and new ballots were sent out.
These mistakes have occurred against a backdrop of statewide claims of voter fraud. S.C. Republicans have claimed fraud is a huge, underreported problem while Democrats say the claims are bogus. They contend it's an untrue -- albeit convenient -- excuse Republicans used to limit the number of S.C. voters through the new voter ID requirement.
No matter which side you believe, it's clear that the voting process is under a microscope. Election officials must go above and beyond the call of duty to shore up any holes and ensure the integrity of the system. To do otherwise is to further jeopardize voters' trust in this basic part of our democracy.
Voters have a role to play as well. The most recent mistake was caught because Windmill Harbour residents, certain they should not be voting in the mayoral race, alerted this newspaper. We hope such quick-thinking by informed voters continues.
The integrity of the voting system is everyone's business. Let's see to it in Tuesday's runoff.