S.C. election agency should stay in budget this year

  • Posted: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 9:10 p.m.
    UPDATED: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 9:36 p.m.

COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s Election Commission should have enough money to make it through the end of this fiscal year, the director said Tuesday.

However, the agency won’t know for certain if it will exceed its $10.4 million budget until it gets the final legal bills for last year’s lawsuits and determines the cost for the special election to fill the U.S. House seat left vacant when Tim Scott was appointed to the U.S. Senate, Director Marci Andino said Tuesday. The commission’s legal headaches last year centered on candidate filings for the primaries.

It could cost South Carolina up to $1.6 million for the primary and special election in the 1st Congressional District and a state House seat in Greenville, Andino told a small group of House lawmakers reviewing her budget.

Andino is asking for $12.6 million next fiscal year. She said her agency wants to set aside $5 million of that to start a fund to pay to replace the state’s voting machines. Andino said the current machines will be used in 2014 and likely in 2016 before the state goes shopping. It cost $34 million to replace the machines in 2004 and 2005, and she figures it will cost about that much next time.

Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, asked Andino if problems reported during the 2012 general elections, especially in Richland County, happened because the machines are getting older.

Some voters in the county waited more than five hours to cast ballots.

“You have to consider the human factor,” Andino said. “The machines were working properly.”

Andino also is asking for $500,000 to buy laptops that can be used to check voter registration, replacing the lengthy printouts that are commonplace at precincts.

South Carolina will also implement a voter ID law this year. The agency doesn’t anticipate a large amount of extra cost, and isn’t sure how big a problem the lack of a picture ID will be.

Out of more than 200,000 letters that were sent to voters who likely don’t have photo identification, Andino said about 90 percent were undeliverable and returned to her office.

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