Orangeburg County has plans in place to deal with computer problems that arise during elections, according to the head of the voter registration office.
County Director of Voter Registration Aurora Smalls said, “No voter is ever turned away because machines are down.
“We always have the other machines. That’s why we provide more than enough machines in case that happens.”
Smalls spoke of the issue on Thursday during the certification of the results from Tuesday’s Democratic primary runoff for the Orangeburg County Council District 6 seat. The results were delayed a day because a voting machine malfunctioned, which Smalls called a random occurrence.
Ray Wannamaker Sabalis received 557 votes in the race, while Deloris Frazier received 538. Sabalis was certified as the winner.
“I’d like to thank my family (and) my supporters,” Sabalis said after the official count.
She added that she wants to give thanks, “to the community that has inspired me.”
She will now face Republican candidate Josh Ridley in the Nov. 28 special election for the seat. The seat, previously held by the late councilman Clyde Livingston, has 13 months remaining on the term.
“I congratulate Mrs. Sabalis on winning this campaign,” Frazier said. “If there’s anything that I can do to help, I’d be more than happy to.”
She thanked God, her supporters and especially Bishop Donald Oliver who helped throughout her campaign.
“He was God sent,” she said.
The two candidates received the most votes in the Democratic primary election held two weeks ago, but a runoff was required because neither secured over 50 percent of the votes.
During Tuesday’s runoff, a machine broke at the Ward 8 precinct located at William J. Clark Middle School.
Smalls needed to take the machine to Florence County for a company technician to fix it and retrieve the votes. Wednesday afternoon, the final tally put Sabalis on top.
In Thursday’s meeting, Calvin Wright said going forward, there should be protocols for handling situations such as a machine breaking down.
He said the procedures need to be “uniform that if it happens at one ward, you would handle it the same way as you would if it happened at another ward or another voting precinct.”
“Who do you notify?” Wright said. “Do you try to get it corrected at that time or what happens when you have an occurrence that’s out of the ordinary?”
He said a process is needed to allow voting to continue in the absence of a machine. It should be presented so the general public can see there is no infringement on a citizen’s right to vote.
Smalls said the county has a process.
The county almost never has just one machine at a precinct.
“If the machines are ever down, then we have paper ballots to vote on,” she added.
Technicians are constantly sent throughout the day to each precinct to check on machines.
“Any problems that occur during the day or any issues, the technicians will take care of that,” she said. “If they have any problems, they call back to the office.”
If a voting machine is unable to be repaired at the precinct, it is sent back to the county offices.
It the case of the Ward 8 machine, Smalls said, “That machine was totally dead.”
Smalls noted that the process is the same at each voting site.
She has said the voting machines are under a maintenance contract. They were last serviced in 2015, when the motherboards were replaced.