S.C. POLLING LOCATIONS
COLUMBIA -- State election leaders say they are prepared for a possible record turnout one week from today.
There are 18,000 poll workers in training, thousands of electronic voting machines anticipated to perform correctly and, just in case, a Plan B if problems arise as in January's Republican presidential primary.
Lawmakers set aside $3.1 million for election workers and operations, despite nearly a half-billion dollars in budget cuts this year. That money will pay for poll workers who will assist voters on Election Day, as well as the cost of using polling places and other expenses.
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The budget for this election is the same as what was spent on the 2006 election, when the governor, the state's constitutional officers and members of the U.S. House were on the ballot. Then, a little more than 1 million voters cast ballots. Turnout in presidential elections is always higher, and the political parties expect to easily surpass the 1.6 million voters who cast ballots in the 2004 presidential election.
State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said the stagnant election budget will have no impact on the general election.
"We're expecting the voting system to perform accurately and efficiently and securely," Whitmire said.
The state's electorate now stands at 2.55 million. That includes more than 500,000 voters added to the rolls since the last presidential election and 300,000 this year.
The state is also headed for a record number of people casting absentee ballots, with more than 200,000 absentee ballots issued thus far. Most voters have until Friday to cast absentee ballots.
To break the 70 percent voter turnout record set in 2004, more than 1.79 million voters must show up at the polls next Tuesday. Obama's S.C. campaign said turnout could top 2 million, while Republicans think 1.6 million to 1.8 million is more likely.
All voters will use the electronic, touch-screen voting machines in statewide use since 2006. And that has some election watchers worried.
In this year's Republican primary in Horry County, workers forgot to clear test votes off the machines. On the day of the primary, the machines wouldn't open because they still had votes on them.
Poll workers were unprepared to take paper ballots, and some voters left in frustration.
And earlier this month in Beaufort County, a wrong password prevented some voters from casting absentee ballots on the machines.
"There's reason to believe some of the machines in this state will not work," said Brett Bursey, director of the S.C. Progressive Network. "Demand an emergency ballot if the machine doesn't work."
Bursey said his organization, along with the state NAACP, will monitor polling sites Nov. 4 to report voter access problems. He has this advice for anyone who shows up at the polls and experiences a long delay- "Don't leave the poll without voting."
Mike Cinnamon, Richland County director of elections, said election officials have learned from past mistakes. Richland County will have more than 900 voting machines to try to keep voters moving. The ballot is fairly short, Cinnamon said, and voters can read over the three statewide ballot questions while waiting in line.
Each polling site will have paper ballots for up to 10 percent of its registered voters.
"If one (machine) goes down, hopefully we'll still be able to vote," Cinnamon said. "We never know what the little thing is. Every election has its own personality."
Election officials are making one special request of voters this year be patient.
Large voter turnout paired with lots of new voters unfamiliar with voting machines will likely create lines in some precincts.
"Keep in mind the sacrifices many Americans have paid for everyone to have the right to vote," Whitmire said. "Waiting in a line isn't such an inconvenience or price to pay for casting a ballot.
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