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Richland Co. elections director: Employee misread handwritten document

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The document showing precinct deployment that Lillian McBride said was misinterpreted by a staffer. To see the full document, click "Richland County exhibits provided to legislative delegation" under "Additional Links."" The document showing precinct deployment that Lillian McBride said was misinterpreted by a staffer. To see the full document, click "Richland County exhibits provided to legislative delegation" under "Additional Links.""
On Election Night, Lillian McBride looks at several PEB's from polling locations across the county. On Election Night, Lillian McBride looks at several PEB's from polling locations across the county.
Lillian McBride addresses the delegation. Lillian McBride addresses the delegation.
Liz Crum apologizes to standing room only crowd for voting mess. (Source: Jack Kuenzie) Liz Crum apologizes to standing room only crowd for voting mess. (Source: Jack Kuenzie)
Voters wait in long lines on November 6. Voters wait in long lines on November 6.
RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) -

Richland County's Elections and Voter Registration Office director says an employee of hers misread a document that was meant to determine the number of machines and personal electronic ballots (PEB) that were scheduled for deployment to each polling place.

Lillian McBride, who is paid $86,394 annually, admitted to a group of county lawmakers during a three and a half hour hearing on Monday afternoon that there weren't enough voting machines at a majority of Richland County precincts on November 6.

She said PEB numbers that she had written on a spreadsheet listing of machines to be sent to each polling place were interpreted by an unnamed employee as the actual number of machines to be deployed.

PEB's are small electronic devices used by poll workers to turn voting machines on and enable voting. The number of PEBs at each precinct is normally a fraction of the number of physical machines.

"From what I could gather," said McBride who spent several minutes reading from a prepared statement, "that's what I believe happened."

McBride said in the weeks leading up to the election, she had adjusted the number of PEBs to send additional units to several larger polling places by writing with red ink on the spreadsheet. The staff member who read that document thought McBride was noting how many machines should be allocated to each precinct.

According to a document shared with the delegation by the elections commission, the number of machines sent to each polling place matched the number mcBride had written in red ink 84 times. However, 40 of the precincts received neither the number of machines prescribed by law or the number written by McBride.

"It was a mistake and it had a drastic consequence," said McBride. "A mistake was made within my office. For that I am humbly sorry. I express my heartfelt apology. If I could take it back, I would."

Thousands of voters were not able to outlast the reported six hour waits in several of the county's 124 precincts. Others stayed, but left frustrated without exercising their right to vote.

Some lawmakers have even suggested that the Richland County debacle has opened the door for opening up talks in the legislature for early voting laws in South Carolina.

According to the South Carolina Elections Commission, Richland County has 970 machines. 935 of them were working on Election Day. Only 628 were deployed to polling places. In comparison, 813 were used in 2010.

McBride said the 2012 numbers were "close to accurate," but still wasn't sure exactly how many machines were actually used.

According to state law, the number of machines in each polling place should equal one for every 250 registered voters.

McBride said she and her staff plan to get together to talk about what happened. Without offering any specific solutions, she said she wants to make sure communication between herself and her staff members is clear and concise. "Check, recheck and approve before anything goes out," said McBride.

McBride says the commission is continuing its investigation into machine discrepancies as well as battery failures and paper ballots being misplaced.

The commission's attorney Steve Hamm is promising straight forward actionable report to delegation.

The date for completion of that investigation isn't clear.

Meanwhile, WIS has asked a host of questions to the elections commission including how many voting machines were deployed to each precinct, how many of those were working, when the machines were tested and what the results of those tests were.

We have yet to receive any answers, but have been informed by the Richland County Ombudsman's Office that we should have documentation to provide those answers during the week of December 3.

We have done some research of our own, though. Numbers provided to us by the South Carolina Election Commission show an apparent violation of law for a large percentage of precincts because of low machine count. Click here to see our interactive map of Richland County precincts.

Copyright 2012 WIS. All rights reserved.

  • Who is responsible for Richland County's election meltdown?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    Richland County's legislative delegation
    7%
    110 votes
    Lillian McBride, director of the election commission
    89%
    1546 votes
    The employee who misinterpreted the voting machine spreadsheet
    2%
    41 votes
    Nobody had the power to prevent the problems that occurred
    2%
    31 votes
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