Weather, voting machine issues dog SC

January 19, 2008 5:10:17 PM PST
As many as 90 percent of the electronic voting machines in one coastal South Carolina county did not work when polls opened in Saturday's Republican primary and officials also worried that snow forecast for the northern part of the state could impact voter turnout.

Lisa Bourcier, a spokeswoman in Horry County, which is home to Myrtle Beach, said 80 percent of the roughly 400 machines that failed to function were up and running by noon and that technicians were working on the rest. She said officials had heard reports of voters being turned away because of machine failures, but had no idea how many.

"There could've been some poll workers out there that probably didn't know what to do," Bourcier said.

Polls were open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Polling officials in some parts of the state said they believed turnout was heavy early because of forecasts for snow later in the day.

Pat Tanner, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service at Greenville-Spartanburg Airport, said rain in the northern part of the state would turn to snow and last through the evening. Any snow tends to bring South Carolina to a slow crawl at best. The state has little snow removal equipment.

State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said some electronic machines in Horry County were not properly tested before Saturday. He said a final testing step that resets a machine for voting was not done, and that prevented the machines from starting up. He said some voters used paper ballots, noting that the state allows voters to cast their ballot using any type of paper.

The campaign of Arizona Sen. John McCain issued a statement that it had received reports of Horry County voters being turned away in the morning but told to return later in the day.

"We are disturbed by these reports and hope that this issue is resolved immediately. We encourage any voters who were turned away from the polls to return again to their polling place this afternoon to exercise their constitutional right to vote," the statement said.