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Voting woes

Angela Felder checks in with the poll workers for Orangeburg County’s Limestone 1 precinct at the Prince of Orange Mall on Tuesday afternoon.

Long lines, some voting problems and a tiny bit of ice falling from the sky couldn’t keep voters from the polls on Tuesday.

In the end, 71 percent of Orangeburg County voters turned out. And they overwhelmingly voted for President Barack Obama, with 30,454 votes to 11,888 for Mitt Romney.

Dana Brown of Eutawville said, “I feel our President has four years under his belt and needs another four years to do what he’s set out to do.

“I don’t think a millionaire is going to look out for the middle class.”

Brown noted that the current president, “got dealt a dirty plate and it’s going to take more than one wash to clean it.”

The morning started with crisp weather and complaints that voters at one poll were being asked their party affiliation, even though South Carolinians don’t register by party.

Orangeburg County Voter Registration and Elections Commission Director Howard Jackson said a poll manager at Suburban 8, which votes at Marshall Elementary School, was reportedly asking voters which party’s primary they participated in earlier in the year.

Poll workers may ask the question during a primary election but not in a general election, Jackson said.

He did not know why the poll manager was asking for party affiliation, but said, “They did not go through that in training.”

He said the poll manager was allowed to remain at the precinct but the matter was resolved immediately.

“We will get with the election committee,” Jackson said, when asked what action was taken. “The voters were allowed to vote.”

Voter Celia Richardson said when she arrived to Marshall, one of the poll workers took her required voter documents. She said she was then told to sign one of two documents: one labeled for Republicans, the other for Democrats.

“I don’t have to say that,” Richardson said, relating what she told the poll worker. “I said I have never done that. She said you have to sign or you will not be able to vote.”

Richardson said she regrettably signed the document, but added that an investigation into the matter is needed.

“It was very wrong,” she said. “How can that be a secret ballot?”

Thomas Richardson said it was a shock to him. He signed the paper and is now also regretting that he did so.

“I am mad,” he said. “It should not happen.”

Richardson said he went to the county’s voter registration office and called the S.C. Attorney General’s office about his concerns.

He said in talking with his friends, who later voted at the same precinct, he was able to find out the matter was indeed corrected.

Jackson said he was not aware that voters had been asked to sign a document indicating whether they were Democrats or Republicans.

In other matters, Jackson said there were minor machine malfunctions as some machines stopped working properly in places such as Elloree. He said by early afternoon the matters were corrected.

Other voters raised concerns about parking and the distance needed to walk to the polls.

Jackson said parking decisions are made by the precinct and owner of the property and not the voter registration office.

“We have not initiated any parking changes,” he said.

Polling places reported voters were ready when they arrived. Poll workers at Ward 2, located at the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce, said voters lined up before the doors opened. Lines were at maximum about 30 people long.

“They were here before we were,” said one of the workers.

At Suburban 7, located at Clark Middle School, waits Tuesday morning averaged about an hour with nearly 100 people waiting in line shortly after the polls opened. Many voters were surprised to find the long lines.

“I came here early to try to avoid the lines,” one said.

Election day also brought one oddity: a wintry mix called “graupel.”

National Weather Service meteorologist Leonard Vaughan said the weather phenomenon that hit Orangeburg just after 3 p.m. wasn’t hail, but “sleet, or graupel ... an icy snowflake kind of thing.”

“The process that causes it to form is different. It’s more like some sleet,” he said.

Vaughan said while it was technically too warm outside — with temperatures in the mid- to upper 40s in the area — for sleet or snow to be falling, the air above was much cooler, leading to the development of those ice crystals.

“We have some really cold air that’s up above us,” he said. “About 5,000 feet above us, the temperature is probably between 0 and 1 degrees Celsius ... and above that, 12,000 feet or something, it’s about minus 25 degrees Celsius.

“It’s not able to melt before it hits the ground. Part of that is because it’s fairly cold between here and there.”

T&D Features Editor Wendy Jeffcoat Crider and T&D Correspondent Martha Rose Brown contributed to this report.

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