Election Day might have been the start of a weeklong nightmare in Richland County, but Lowcountry election officials agree voters fared far better here.
Still, they spent part of Wednesday evening meeting with a few dozen members of the Charleston Area League of Women Voters to discuss what changes they can make to ensure future elections run even more smoothly.
Since Nov. 6, everyone from President Barack Obama on down has expressed an interest in seeing what can be done to shorten lines and wait times at the polls.
Wanda Farley, director of Berkeley County’s Board of Elections and Voter Registration, and Josh Dickard, who has the same job in Dorchester County, said one reason voting went more smoothly than in 2008 was turnout was down slightly from the record levels that year.
But poll workers also had more and better equipment, particularly new laptops that sped up the process of searching voter rolls.
Farley said her biggest problem in a few precincts were elderly poll workers unable to use the laptops with speed but who declined to let someone else do the job.
While the Lowcountry saw long lines, Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester didn’t see anything like the debacle in Richland County, which was still recounting votes Wednesday night, following an S.C. Supreme Court ruling Tuesday.
Richland had a newly created election office this year, and its elections were marred by too few voting machines and precinct workers, as well as machine breakdowns. The worst waits reached five hours, and some gave up.
The following ideas for further improvements were floated — and largely embraced — by election and League officials:
Redrawing precinct lines to even out their numbers. Farley said one Daniel Island precinct has about 3,900 voters and is growing. The goal is to have no more than 1,500 voters.
Making sure poll workers are properly trained, particularly as new technologies are used.
Spreading the word about South Carolina’s new voter ID law that will take effect next year and require voters to have one of five government-issued photo ID cards or be prepared to sign an affidavit as to why they could not get one.
Pushing for a new state law that would allow voting centers, places where all county voters may vote, regardless of their precinct. That way, a St. George resident who works in Summerville could vote there on his lunch hour.
Expanding the state’s early voting. South Carolina doesn’t allow early voting, though voters may cast absentee votes early for one of several reasons.
But if more early voting were allowed, then that also would help reduce waits on Election Day. Farley said it also would help her hire more staff for early voting.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.
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