COLUMBIA -- Colleton County's election results were skewed by human error that had nothing to do with the electronic voting machines, according to an investigation by the S.C. Election Commission.
The Colleton County Board of Elections reported nearly 1,400 extra votes in the November election. The discrepancy came to light after the Election Commission certified the results.
The mistake happened when county election directors were counting paper ballots, also called emergency ballots, S.C. Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said Tuesday.
Instead of entering how many paper ballots were counted, they entered how many votes the candidates received, which inflated the numbers in the statewide elections, Whitmire said.
The extra votes didn't affect any results, according to election officials with the state and the county. But the discrepancy raised questions about the reliability of the process, and it especially cast light on the electronic voting machines.
Frank Heindel of Mount Pleasant, who maintains a website documenting problems with electronic voting machines, lined up an independent audit to see if the machines were at fault.
"Why do we have such poorly written software that allows candidates to receive more votes than the number of ballots cast?" Heindel said Tuesday. "Poorly written software creates human error."
He said the independent auditors were still waiting for the files to finish their work.
Whitmire's explanation differs from Colleton County Elections Director Eric Campbell's guess at what happened.
Campbell had said he suspected that some votes were counted twice when he held the memory cards from six smaller precincts in the machine too long while tabulating the votes.
That raised questions whether the computer software was at fault. Whitmire said there is no indication that the mistake had anything to do with the machine reading the memory cards.
"It wasn't a problem with the machines, and it wasn't something mysterious," Whitmire said. "Whenever there are humans involved, there is always going to be the chance of error."
The commission recommended more training before the next election.
Whitmire said the mistake could have been avoided if the staff had scanned the paper ballots instead of manually counting them.