COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina’s State Election Commission has made some changes in order to better handle the upcoming presidential election, including new security measures and additional training for poll managers.
“This election, it’s all about security and the integrity of the election process itself,” says Chris Whitmire, spokesman for the State Election Commission. He says this is the first time a major presidential candidate has ever questioned the integrity of the election before Election Day, referring to Donald Trump saying the election is rigged.
Earlier this year, Russian hackers got into the voter registration database in one state and tried to access another’s. Political parties have also had their email accounts hacked. So South Carolina has in place a team of federal, state, and private experts.
Whitmire says, “That team includes the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, DOJ, SLED, the South Carolina National Guard, the Division of State Information Technology–our state-level IT professionals–and a private cyber-security firm. So we’re working daily with that team of individuals to make sure we’re doing everything possible to protect all of those systems.”
He says with incidents of violence in public places around the nation, including schools and workplaces, they’ve also given additional security training to state poll managers. “Training poll managers on situational awareness, being aware of their surroundings and knowing their polling place, where exits are, controlling the flow of voters in and out of the polling place, denying unauthorized access to areas in the polling place that you wouldn’t want people going into,” he says.
County election officials are coordinating with local law enforcement as well, making sure officers and deputies who will be working on Election Day know where all the polling places are in case they’re called to one.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for South Carolina has two people who will be handling any complaints of voter fraud or voter intimidation at polling places. However, state law prevents law enforcement officers from being stationed inside polling places, since that could intimidate some voters. They can be there only if they’re voting or they’re called there by a poll manager.
Whitmire says voters can expect lines in many places. The highest voter turnouts are during presidential election years when there’s no incumbent, like this year. The last time that happened was 2008 and South Carolina set its voter turnout record of 76 percent.
However, counties have bought additional voting machines to try to reduce wait times, and the state is also using new technology to try to speed up the process. For example, using more laptops to check in voters, which is faster than searching for their names and checking them off on paper lists. The state will also be using more barcode scanners, which poll workers can use to scan a voter’s ID so their information comes up automatically, speeding up the process. County election officials and poll managers have also received training on line management, which is the most efficient way to get people into and out of the buildings and lines to vote.
To speed up the process even more, Whitmire says voters can also play a part. Check your voter registration beforehand, and also make sure your polling place hasn’t changed. Have your ID with you. And look at a sample ballot beforehand and make your decisions. Waiting to decide at the voting machine slows down the lines.