Richland Co. election vendor gives timeline on ballot data issue, says ballots remain ‘ahead of schedule’

Richland Co. election vendor gives timeline on ballot data issue, says ballots remain “ahead of sche

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The company that produces Richland County’s absentee ballots says they’re on the way.

The Richland County Elections and Voter Registration Office contracts with Minnesota-based SeaChange for the printing and mailing of its absentee ballots.

Office director Alexandria Stephens said in a virtual meeting on Friday that absentee ballots were delayed by a data file issue between the office and SeaChange.

At the time, she said the issue was corrected and the mailing of the ballots had begun.

Individuals who do not receive their ballot in the mail by the end of this week should go to one of the six in-person absentee locations in Richland County to cast an in-person absentee ballot.

WIS reached out to SeaChange on Monday about the data issue and the status of Richland County’s ballots.

Monday, SeaChange President Wendi Breuer sent WIS the following statement and timeline:

"SeaChange is the general election vote-by-mail (VBM) ballot printer for Richland County, S.C. We are working closely with the Richland County Board Of Voter Registration & Elections to produce the County’s VBM ballot packets. Due to the County’s need to hold a late special election, the County provided ballot and data files later than expected. However, SeaChange is pleased to report that 40,000 ballots were mailed by Friday, Oct. 9, and an additional 5,000 ballots will be mailed today, Oct. 12. This provides ample time for Richland County voters to receive, cast, and return their ballots by their method of choice, including USPS.

Here are the timeline details.

  • Monday, Sept. 28: Richland County provides SeaChange with ballot and voter data files. SeaChange immediately begins production and proofing process.
  • Monday, Oct. 5: Ballot files are approved for printing; production begins. Note: SeaChange requires 10 production days from this date to complete the printing and mailing process. Projected mail completion date is Thursday, Oct. 15.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 6: SeaChange discovers a small number of issues in the data file provided by Richland County. Specifically, seven records were calling for incorrect ballot styles. Richland County officials work diligently to resolve the issues with their data file by end of day and upload corrected files. SeaChange’s processes are designed to isolate and correct these types of issues to ensure accurate ballot production for each voter record.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 7: Production begins.
  • Thursday, Oct. 8: SeaChange completes and mails 5,000 VBM packets, one week ahead of the stated deadline.
  • Friday, Oct. 9: SeaChange completes and mails 35,000 VBM packets, significantly ahead of schedule.
  • Monday, Oct. 12: SeaChange will complete and mail 5,000 VBM packets, significantly ahead of schedule.

This represents the 45,000 VBM ballot packets requested by Richland County so far. Richland County voters will have ample time to receive, cast, and return their VBM ballots by their method of choice, including USPS. SeaChange will continue to process VBM ballot packets through the month, as data files are received from Richland County. We appreciate the high level of responsiveness from Richland County election officials to quickly resolve the data file issues."

Breuer cited the run-off election for the late Richland County Councilman Chip Jackson’s seat as a delaying factor for getting the information to the company.

S.C. Election Commission Director of Public Information Chris Whitmire said SeaChange is one of just three companies the commission allows counties to contract with for ballot services.

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He said SeaChange was the only contractor allowed in the state through the June elections before the commission decided to give counties a “menu” of options.

“Having to increase the volume that SeaChange could accommodate, SeaChange wasn’t being able to serve the whole state. So in the pandemic, with this level of absentee ballots, it was important to add additional vendors,” he said.

The Richland County Voter Registration & Elections Board must receive your ballot by 7 p.m. on election day.

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