2 polling sites stay open late after voting snags in Richmond, Columbia counties
Tuesday, June 9, 2020
Voters saw some early morning glitches in Columbia and Richmond counties, some of which were chalked up to jitters and a learning curve with
Polling sites were supposed to open at 7 a.m. Tuesday for people to cast their ballots in the primary.
But because of the problems, two Richmond County sites didn’t open on time, so they stayed open later, officials said.
In Columbia County, at least one voter described an issue at a polling site in Grovetown, where he said poll workers had to manually punch in codes on voting machines for paper records of votes to be printed.
Nancy Gay, executive director of the Columbia County elections office, admitted there was a snag at a Grovetown polling site, but she said it wasn’t a malfunction.
She said poll workers are supposed to insert a card into a machine so it would print the correct information. However, she said there was some confusion because this is the first election for new voting equipment across the state. As a result of that and possibly nerves, the poll workers were inserting the cards backward and it appeared at first that they were not working, she said.
She said whether a machine works properly or not, a vote needs to be recorded, so poll workers were told to use the workaround to the cards, which is to enter the code manually.
Once it became clear that the problem was user error, voting was going smoothly, Gay said.
“Anytime you use something for the first time, you’re going to have something go wrong,” she said.
Richmond County saw some issues, as well.
Lynn Bailey, executive director of the county’s election board, said two polling places “had a bit of a tough time getting opened up” due to issues with opening equipment and getting it set up.
As a result, the sites didn’t open at 7. Instead, the Vineyard Church site began processing voters at 7:30 a.m. and the SouthPoint Church location began processing voters at 8:40 a.m.
Bailey said officials worked with the Superior Court to extend voting hours at both locations so a full 12 hours would be provided to voters who use those sites.
The polling site at Vineyard got the OK to stay open until 7:30 p.m. and the site at SouthPoint, 3358 Peach Orchard Road, was approved to stay open until 8:40 p.m., Bailey told News 12.
Gabriel Sterling, who’s in charge of statewide implementation of the new voting system, said in a midday Tuesday statement that no issues had been reported with the new equipment itself.
“We do have reports of equipment being delivered to the wrong locations and delivered late. We have reports of poll workers not understanding setup or how to operate voting equipment,” Sterling said in a statement.
In Columbia County, Gay was taking the glitches in stride on Tuesday.
“Good Lord willing, we’re going to make it through the day,” she said with a laugh.