Ballots didn?t allow straight party vote
By Tommy Howard, Georgetown Times November 10, 2005
No surprises came to light in the vote certification of municipal elections Thursday morning.
Georgetown County Democratic Party Chairman Nancy Kolman gave the election board a letter of complaint over the set-up of the touch-screen election machines.
Members of the Georgetown County Board of Voter Registration and Elections met at 9 a.m. to review the unofficial results, consider a few provisional ballots and certify results. They were sworn in as the Board of Canvassers to certify the vote.
In Georgetown, Democrat Lynn Wood Wilson was certified for reelection as mayor with 1,297 votes to 235 for Republican challenger Bob Usher. There were 10 write-in votes.
For Georgetown City Council, the top three vote-getters were Democrats Jack Scoville (943 votes) and Brendon Barber (865 votes), who were certified as winners. Republican Paige Sawyer was a close third at 859 votes and also won a seat on council. Barber and Sawyer were incumbents.
Democrat Jeanette Ard received 733 votes, while Republican Paul Smith got 484 votes. There were 6 write-in votes for council seats.
In Andrews, there were five candidates running for three seats in a non-partisan election. As with the Georgetown City Council election, voters could cast ballots for one, two or three candidates.
Those elected include Rodney Giles with 317 votes, Thomas Alford with 278 and Michael Shaw with 270.
Jack Kinder got 227 votes and Hank Van Vlake received 174 votes.
There had been some question about whether there needed to be a run-off in Andrews, because Kinder?s vote total was close, just 43 votes less than Shaw. However, election board interim chairman Billy Altman provided board members with a reference to state law that says even though Kinder?s total was within the ?majority? required for election, those getting the top vote totals ?shall be declared elected.?
Unofficial votes changed slightly as two provisional ballots were allowed.
Richard Herman lives in Williamsburg County, but a portion of his property is within the town limits of Andrews. He was challenged at the voting precinct. He appeared before the Board of Canvassers with copies of a map, his tax notices where he pays taxes in Andrews and other documents.
Board member Galer Wright said that was ?compelling evidence? to him and moved that Herman?s vote be allowed. The seven board members present at the time agreed and Herman?s vote was included.
Also, Elizabeth McCants? absentee ballot was hand-delivered after 5 p.m. on Tuesday, election day, and was not originally included in the total. Altman said since her ballot was presented before the polls closed, it should be allowed, and the rest of the board agreed.
Altman said at the beginning of the meeting there was a problem with the ballot.
?When we were testing the equipment before deployment, we discovered there was not a party affiliation for the Georgetown ballot,? he said. Several members of the local election board fixed that error, but three voters cast absentee ballots before that was discovered. They were contacted and allowed to come back and revote or were mailed new absentee ballots, he said.
Law requires ?straight party? voting be allowed
Not discussed during the meeting was the concern on the part of some people about not being able to vote a ?straight party? ticket. That?s something that is required by state law, but was not done in the City of Georgetown election.
After the meeting was over, however, Democratic Party Chairman Nancy Kolman gave a two-page letter of complaint to Altman.
She said not being able to vote a straight-party ticket was a problem.
?We consider this a serious breach, as it could deprive voting rights to voters who are comfortable with it, and who could be confused with any deviation,? she wrote.
Kolman also wrote that the review screen on the new electronic iVotronic machines didn?t show the names of candidates. ?Our voters had no confirmation for whom they had voted,? she said.
Chris Whitmire is public information officer for the State Election Commission. ?That?s just the way the machines operate.?
He said in races such as the Georgetown City Council election, the machine ?field is only capable of displaying one name if it?s a multiple-seat race.?
A voter could have touched that race and go back to the council election, he said. ?Maybe it?s an education thing.?
Whitmire said that a candidate could base a protest of the election on the fact that the straight-party ticket vote was not an option in Georgetown, since state law requires that be part of the ballot.
?It?s up to the election commission to decide a protest,? Whitmire said. ?In the past candidates have used any number of things as grounds for a protest.? That doesn?t mean the candidate would be successful, he continued. ?It always comes down to the decision of the commission.?
Deadline for filing a protest is 48 hours after the closing of the polls, which would have been 7 p.m. Thursday. Within 48 hours of any such protest, Whitmire said, state law requires that the election commission must hold a hearing on the protest.
Only two members of the Georgetown County Board of Voter Registration and Elections signed a form stating they had reviewed the machine and paper ballots for proper setup. Altman and John Nagy signed the undated forms, which were to be returned to the State Election Commission by Sept. 28. There was one form for Georgetown and one for Andrews.
Two managers required to assist voters
Separate from Kolman?s letter of complaint, several people noted on election day that there was a problem of a single poll manager showing people how to use the iVotronic machines. State law clearly states that if a person needs assistance, two poll managers are required to be present while one of them helps the voter.
Altman said he wished people had called the election office on Tuesday to make staff aware of that problem so it could have been addressed. During training which he conducted, he stressed to poll managers that two people were required to give assistance.
Also, ?demonstrator? machines were at each precinct to educate people in the use of the machines. It had made-up names. In at least one precinct, the demonstrator machine was ignored while the poll manager by herself showed people how to use the machine with the ?real? candidates.
Several people also said they were concerned about the many names of voters not on poll lists.
If a person doesn?t vote in the two preceding elections, his or her name is removed from the active list. If the voter then comes to vote in another election, the voter?s name is written on the poll list and is supposed to be changed back to active status.
Numerous people who voted at the J.B. Beck Administrative Center were not on the list. They were allowed to vote because they were registered but shown at the office as being inactive. A large number of those voters said they went through that same process last November, so their names should have been on the active list.
?After the election,? Whitmire said, ?the voter registration office is responsible for going through the poll lists and giving people credit for voting.?
He also said that Donna Royson, the state director of voting services, said that using ?Rd? versus ?Road? should not cause problems in the address for a voter. That and other abbreviations for streets have been said to be one of the causes of about a 25 percent error rate in addresses.
Members of the election board moved their regular monthly meeting to next Wednesday, Nov. 16, at 5 p.m., because of the election and vote certification this week.
Kolman said she would ask for a discussion on the points in her letter of complaint at that meeting.
She and Republican chairman Paul Hogan both expressed their pleasure with the overall conduct of the election, despite some of the problems.