'Missing' South Carolina Mail-In Ballots Turn Up in Maryland
Palmetto State’s primary ballots found out of state this week due to 'mix up'
Election ballots for South Carolina have reportedly turned up in Maryland this week, after going missing, but were found after mail-in voting for the Palmetto State’s June 9 primary has already begun, according to reports.
South Carolina election officials are blaming the Minnesota printing company SeaChange for the "mix-up" that led to about 20 Charleston County absentee ballots being found outside the state, the reports say
Officials say this isn’t the first vote-by-mail ballot issue they’ve had with the company, and are now threatening to cut ties with the firm.
SeaChange currently prints and mails ballots for 13 South Carolina counties.
Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire told the Post and Courier that some voters in Greenville County received the wrong absentee ballots when the special election for sheriff and the Democratic presidential primary were held just 10 days apart.
Charleston voters also received ballots that were folded in a way that made them tough to read by scanning machines.
In a year that will see record numbers of absentee voting due to the coronavirus pandemic, the election integrity of absentee voting has become a major issue, particularly among Republicans who warn of possible voter fraud.
With less than three weeks before the June 9 primary for state and local seats, South Carolina has already issued 20 percent more absentee ballots than the total for the 2018 primary, according to Whitmire.
On Wednesday, Baltimore Sun reporter Emily Opilo tweeted about a “crazy tidbit.”
“Maryland election officials found a bunch of ballots from South Carolina mixed in with their shipments to Baltimore,” Opilo wrote on Twitter.
"They use the same vendor. I just talked to an elections official in SC, and he says they’re ready to dump the company."
“SC’s statewide primary is June 9. As of this week, an unknown number of Charleston’s ballots were here in Baltimore.
"An SC official says they were losing confidence in the mail vendor even before this happened.
"An entire county didn’t get presidential ballots in Feb,” she added.
SC's statewide primary is June 9. As of this week, an unknown number of Charleston's ballots were here in Baltimore. An SC official says they were losing confidence in the mail vendor even before this happened. An entire county didn't get presidential ballots in Feb.— Emily Opilo (@emilyopilo) May 20, 2020
Whitmire also expressed concerns that SeaChange could handle the general election, given the issues so far in the primary and local elections.
“We’re not getting a warm and fuzzy feeling that they can handle this,” Whitmire told the outlet.
“We are actively seeking sustainable solutions.”
The issue comes as several states have considered or enacted policies that allow vote-by-mail opportunities due to social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic – to varying degrees of success, according to The Daily Wire.
Fox News reported last week that Clark County election officials sent ballots to inactive voters, something Republicans argue can increase voter fraud.
“Anyone can turn in a ballot they pick off the ground,” Keith Schipper, communications director for the Nevada Trump Victory, told Fox.
“This is a dangerous proposition.”
Another concern with mail-in ballots is the potential for ballot harvesting, where a single person collects dozens, even hundreds of ballots, and delivers them at once.
In Orange County, California, for example, a record 250,000 mail-in-ballots were counted.
“People were carrying in stacks of 100 and 200 of them. We had had multiple people calling to ask if these people were allowed to do this,” Neal Kelley, the registrar for voters in Orange County, said, according to Fox.
“Several states have enacted some restrictions on the practice, while others have expressly allowed it or failed to regulate it at all.
"According to a 2019 analysis by Ballotpedia, 24 states and the District of Columbia permit someone chosen by the voter to return mail ballots on their own, with nine of those states adding some specific exceptions,” Fox reported.
“Twelve states outline who specifically can return ballots (such as family members or caregivers); and one state explicitly requires that only voters can return their ballots. Eleven states establish a limit on the number of ballots that a so-called 'harvester' can return.”