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South Carolina: The Next Florida PDF  | Print |  Email
By Marie Cocco, Washington Posty   
January 24, 2008
Election Day began with voting machines refusing to start up. It ended with them refusing to shut down.

“It was a very stressful day,” says Sandy Martin, director of registration and elections in Horry County, S.C.

She still doesn’t know the precise reasons her county’s computerized, touch-screen machines balked at starting up last Saturday as the polls opened for the state’s Republican primary. Some voters who showed up early complained they were turned away from polling places, and about 6,000 votes wound up being cast on paper—some on printed ballots, others on any piece of paper a poll worker could find. The leading theory for the starting-up problem is that election workers who prepared the equipment failed to run a final procedure meant to set the computers’ vote counters to zero.

More evident, Martin says, is that the machines refused to close down at the end of the day because of a programming error. Because South Carolina’s Democratic primary is not being held until this Saturday, the computers were programmed to shut themselves down on Jan. 26—not at the end of Republican balloting on Jan. 19. “We had to go into the election menu and tell it to close manually,” Martin told me. Neither glitch affected the vote count, she says.

Still, Horry County has earned itself a minor footnote to presidential electoral history. It is another tale of voting machine failure that causes confusion and anger, marring what should be a gratifying civic exercise in which every eligible voter is allowed to cast a ballot—and is assured that every ballot is properly counted. After the debacle of the 2000 presidential election in Florida, we were supposed to end all this. We haven’t.

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