Data: Fewer voting machines available in 2012 than 2010 - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Data: Fewer voting machines available in 2012 than 2010

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Remember the long lines on Election Day? Now we know why. According to data from the State Election Commission, Richland County had 198 fewer machines than they did for the general election in 2010 when fewer typically vote.

"I think somebody obviously didn't plan as well as they should have," said Dr. Duncan Buell, a poll watcher and computer science professor at the University of South Carolina.

The numbers say it all: more than 119,000 ballots were cast in 2010, compared to more than 160,000 two weeks ago.

"I would have started with the data from 2010 and then perhaps estimated the increased turnout, increased machine per precinct roughly on that," said Buell.

The data also says 90 precincts had fewer machines than 2010.

We broke down the numbers at Ward 8, which was short five machines. With 3,904 registered voters, even if only half showed up, that's 1,952 voters. On five machines, if all of the machines were working, a voter would need to cast a ballot every minute to vote in the 12-hour window for voting.

"Three minutes is the legal limit, so certainly that's what should be included," said Buell. "That doesn't actually take into account the time spent walking up to the machine, and having the poll manager open it up."

The list doesn't account for broken machines. The state hasn't been able to calculate that data yet.

Despite all the headaches, Richland County's election results were finally certified by the state on Monday.

Election officials beat Monday's 5 p.m. certification deadline by more than two hours, but a new set of problems emerged. Somewhere between eight to 10 ballots were entered incorrectly, thus causing an error in the final results. Because those ballots weren't enough to change the outcome of any of the races, the Election Commission still certified the results.

State election officials are now combing through both results and audit data from Richland County's voting machines.

"The audit data will show how many machines were used in every precinct, in every polling place," said Chris Whitmire with the SC Election Commission. "It will show a time that votes were cast on the voting machine, so if the voting machine was opened to begin with then closed down you would see that in the audit data."

Officials say it will take some time to analyze all of the data. An audit is not required, but it's something the state does when the county is willing to send the information.

Now that the state's results are certified, they'll be headed to the Secretary of State's office.

The state has received protest in Senate District 25, 45, and House District 53. The protest deadlines in 45 counties have expired.

Richland County's protest deadline is a week from Tuesday. A protest has already been filed on the penny sales tax question.

On top of protests, a group of legislators will meet on Monday to ask Richland County election officials what happened to cause Nov. 6's election debacle.

When we asked the delegation for comments on Tuesday, a spokesman for Chairman Sen. Darrell Jackson said he wouldn't comment until Monday, but would have plenty of questions for Richland County Election Officials. Questions would also be raised about the violation of state law.

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