The difficulties in voting and in tabulating the votes in Charleston County demand the follow-up attention promised by Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell in the wake of Tuesday's election. More state support may be required.
Some of the polling problems can be attributed to the record turnout, but the difficulties weren't universal. A letter on this page from an Election Day worker on James Island offers evidence that some operations proceeded smoothly, even if the polls were crowded.
But there were reports of lengthy waits and tangled lines that were counterproductive to easy voting in other locations. Letters to the editor this week suggest that the problems included some Berkeley County precincts in Goose Creek and Hanahan as well.
Charleston County's difficulty in properly recording and tabulating the vote has been blamed on a computer programming glitch. Its effects, however, were hardly minor.
The electronic machines were purchased to ensure ease and credibility in the voting process after the 2000 election debacle in Florida. Elsewhere in South Carolina, few problems were reported with their operation. The local failure to get the vote tallied in a timely manner doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the process.
Forty-one of South Carolina's 46 counties depend on the State Election Commission to set up the database for the electronic voting machines used for primary and general elections. State election officials provide that service in more than 300 elections each year. Clearly, they have far more experience than local election officials could expect to gain in a lifetime. There's no good reason for this or any other county to pass up this state service, offered without charge.
State Election Commission Director Marci Andino plans to make that offer of assistance again to the five holdout counties. She notes that Charleston wasn't alone among those counties in experiencing voting machine problems. That telling bit of information should be of interest to legislators who want a broader examination of the state's latest election.
Rep. Chip Limehouse, for example, wants the state to take a closer look at the growth in absentee voting and the likelihood it is being mainly used as a substitute for early voting. Rep. Limehouse is chairman of the county's Legislative Delegation, which appoints the local election commission.
Early voting is offered in 34 states, including Georgia and North Carolina, and has become an increasingly popular alternative to going to the polls. In South Carolina, some 340,000 absentee ballots were cast in the election, more than double the number cast in the last presidential election. Charlie Lybrand, Charleston County's register of mesne conveyance, makes a case for early voting in his letter on this page.
The downside to early voting, however, is that it effectively encourages voters to cast their ballots before all the campaigning is over. Who's to say some late-arriving disclosure about a candidate won't change a voter's mind?
Going to the polls on Election Day, standing in line and casting your vote is a traditional exercise of a citizen's fundamental right and responsibility. It is a basic, collective act of citizenship.
Legislators should first look at how to make Election Day easier for the voter, not how to make it superfluous.
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