The problem with 80 to 90 percent of voting machines that did not work this morning was due to operator error ...
Horry County did not reset voting machines after they were tested, state Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said. He said at 2 p.m. the agency was still trying to find out how many machines and precincts were affected.
There was nothing wrong with the system or its software, Whitmire said.
``It's a human error of procedure not being followed correctly that led to the situation today,'' he said.
The machines won't allow votes to occur if they have not been reset after the test, he said.
``That's what it is supposed to do.''
He also said that if the machines don't work, the poll managers should give people the backup paper ballots, the fail-safe ballots and pieces of paper, even a paper towel if necessary, to vote on.
``No voter should ever be turned away,'' Whitmire said. ``That's a training issue.''
Precincts are supposed to have enough paper ballots for 10 percent of their registered voters, and fail-safe ballots for 5 percent.
That is to allow for times for the machines to be fixed or someone to bring more ballots. If there are no more ballots, poll managers have the power to go out and buy notebook paper or anything necessary to allow people to vote, Whitmire said.
The situation has not occurred anywhere else in the state, he also said.
About 80 to 90 percent of the election machines in Horry County had malfunctioned early this morning, said spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier.
There are about 300 machines or more in the county, Bourcier said.
As of about 4:30 p.m. all but four precincts had their machines back up and running.
Voters started turning up at precincts about 7 a.m. this morning to cast their ballots in the U.S. Presidential Republican Primary and the machine problems were noticed about 8 a.m.
Voters were then directed to use paper ballots. At at least one polling site, paper ballots ran out and voters used scraps of paper.
Voters at Lakewood Elementary School were asked to leave their names and phone numbers so they could be called back to vote.
Marie VanMeter of Surfside Beach said she was asked for her information. She said poll workers did call her back, and she was able to return to her precinct to vote.
The Horry County Elections Office is in contact with the S.C. Election Commission.
But all ballots count, even those written on paper ballots and those written on scaps of paper, Bourcier said.
All precincts are open and will remain open until the polls close at 7 p.m.
S.C. GOP chairman Katon Dawson said his party is “confident we are going to have full and fair elections all over South Carolina.”
Republican poll watchers are at “just about all” of the state’s 2,091 precincts, Dawson said. Between 350,000 and 500,000 people will vote, Dawson estimated, adding that inclement weather makes it hard to predict.
Any suppression of turnout probably will not affect the percentages of the winner and the losers, he said.
Baum said turnout in the Upstate was “steady” as people are apparently voting early to avoid bad weather.
Horry County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatched to distribute additional paper ballots to precincts that had run out.
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McClatchy Newspapers and staff writer Kurt Knapek contributed to this report
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