By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Just in time for voting in the June 12 primaries, Darlington County Elections and Registrations is moved into their new building and ready to conduct tabulations and reporting in a roomier and more secure facility.
Costing $180,000, the 40-foot by 80-foot steel building features a brick facade (for aesthetic blending with downtown’s stately older buildings), carpeting and seating in the publicly accessible reporting and returns area, and a window through which visitors can watch elections officials compile voting results as they happen.
“Transparency is a big thing today, so I thought it might be good for the citizens to be able to see us at work,” says Hoyt Campbell, director of Darlington County Elections and Registrations.
The front room is a spacious, carpeted area with seating and a flat screen television, which should be set up to display live tabulations before November’s general elections. Also, this area will be used for future early and absentee voting, with machines and attendants ready to help citizens cast their ballots in advance of big elections.
“In the presidential election of 2016, we voted 620 people in our office as absentee voters on the day before the election,” says Campbell. “Now in this new bigger thirty-by-forty room, we’ll have plenty of space to vote the people who want or need to do so early.”
Previously, vote tabulation and storage of voting machines took place on the first floor of the Mozingo Building, located at 300 Russell Street. Campbell says those spaces may eventually house the offices of Darlington County Veterans Affairs, currently located on the third floor of the county courthouse. This move would improve accessibility for those with mobility issues or disabilities.
Campbell says there was another issue with the Mozingo Building space: a partial wall with perhaps a two-foot gap at the top between a conference room and the voting machine storage room presented security concerns. In the new building, the voting machines will be kept in a dedicated and locked storage area with no windows and no partial walls.
This back room area offers set-up and work stations where Campbell and his staff can prepare and service voting machines. Pick up and drop off of machines is now more convenient, since the new building has a driveway that leads right to the side entrance – a feature that will surely be appreciated by hard-working poll volunteers who have to lug 181 heavy plastic-cased voting computers to 32 precincts all over the county.
Those computers, put into service in 2005, are nearing the end of their usable years. Campbell says that in the 2020 elections, a new federal law will require each vote to leave a printed paper trail and provide receipts for voters, and this means new voting machines will be needed. Hopefully, says Campbell, the bulk of the upgrade cost will be paid by the federal and state government. This was the case in 2005, where those two entities shared the cost and passed no expense along to Darlington County.
The Darlington County Office of Elections and Registrations is located at 131 Cashua Street in Darlington, and the new building is right next door at 135 Cashua Street. For more information, call 843-398-4900.