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Heavier voter turnout surprises poll SC workers

South Carolina voters showed up in big numbers Tuesday despite the soggy weather, surprising polling workers who expected a light turnout for a midterm election.Minor problems, including glitches with the electronic voting machines and a poll manager who overslept, were reported across the state.

The State Election Commission also had problems with its Web site, which was shutdown for about 90 minutes in the morning, spokesman Chris Whitmire said. “Our technicians are still looking into why the site went down,” Whitmire said.

Voters had more company at the precincts than two years ago. The state NAACP had people monitoring polls at historically black colleges and universities as well as other places where large numbers of blacks vote.

Some blacks at these precincts were targeted by poll watchers in 2004 and the civil rights organization wants to protect their rights, said Lonnie Randolph, president of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Rain was the biggest obstacle for most voters Tuesday.

The bad weather could keep away people who are least committed to vote, leaving those with stronger affiliations to the Democrats or Republicans at the polls, Winthrop University political scientist Scott Huffmon said.

In Lexington County, poll manager Ottis Smith estimated almost 1,000 people out of 2,400 registered voters would cast their ballots by midmorning.“It’s a very large turnout,” Smith said. “I think we’ve had a big push because people want to miss the rain.”

Voters took more time with their ballots because of seven constitutional amendment questions. The last time South Carolina’s ballot had this many questions was 1988, when 11 questions caused long lines.

In Greenville, a poll manager apparently overslept, delaying voters about an hour after the polls opened, county elections director Conway Belangia said.At least a couple of precincts in Lancaster County had trouble starting the electronic machines, said local voter registration director Cassie Stump, who didn’t know specifically how many were affected. Most machines were working after a 15 to 20 minute delay. “They got them going,” Stump said.

In Kershaw County, poll manager Candace Spinks had problems setting up the machines.

“The machine just wouldn’t open, but luckily, no voters turned away,” said Spinks, who said one voter used a provisional ballot.

Whitmire said some problems were expected with 2,057 precincts and roughly 18,000 poll workers. “There are these isolated issues,” he said.