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South Carolina primary plagued by bad voting machines, snow

Sunday January 20, 2008

Republican presidential candidates seeking a win in South Carolina's primary -- and an edge in what so far has been a wide-open race -- were hoping voters would head to the polls despite bad weather.

Rain and snow were falling in some places Saturday. CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras said as much as 4 inches of snow could fall in the western and northern parts of the state.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who was victorious earlier this month in Iowa caucuses, said the snow was "something we hoped wouldn't happen."

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But, Huckabee said, "We have to take the weather for what it is. We don't get to choose it. I just hope that our voters are so committed that it doesn't affect the fact that they are going to vote, because ... it's a mission that they have to deal with today."

Malfunctioning voting machines plagued Horry County, which contains the cities of Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach. "Human error" put the machines offline in 80 percent of the county's precincts during Saturday's voting, according to county spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier

By 4 p.m. ET, only about four of the county's 118 precincts were without a working machine, Bourcier said. Polls closed at 7 p.m. ET.

The campaign of GOP contender Sen. John McCain had sought to obtain a court order to extend voting in the northeastern county by an additional hour but were unable to do so. McCain did very well in Horry County when he ran for president in 2000.

Bourcier said that voters in the affected precincts used paper ballots and any scrap of paper available to cast their votes. She said the county was bringing in 40 to 50 extra people to count ballots after polls close, and, she said, officials were aware that an order extending voting hours was possible.

Bourcier said the problem was caused by "human error." The last step in preparing the machines for Election Day is a "clearing" test that resets the machine data to zero. That test was not done on most of the machines, which locked them and made them unable to function, she said.

Full article here.

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