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After Charleston, absentee ballots found in Maryland …

September 7, 2020

* South Carolina absentee ballots found in Maryland as Democrats push for vote-by-mail increases 

South Carolina election officials could have counties cut ties to a Minnesota printer after about 20 Charleston County absentee ballots were found in Maryland this week. Brad Nettles/ Staff

South Carolina election officials could have counties cut ties to a Minnesota printer after about 20 Charleston County absentee ballots were found in Maryland this week.

The ready-to-mail ballots have since made their way to Charleston-area voters, state and county election officials said, but it is just the latest problem with SeaChange Print Innovations, which prints and mails absentee ballots for 13 S.C. counties.

Some Greenville County voters received the wrong absentee ballots this year when the Democratic presidential primary and a special election for sheriff were held 10 days apart, S.C. Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said.

Some Charleston County voters received ballots that were folded in a way that could make them tougher to read by scanning machines, he said.

The latest mishap has left the state election agency with little confidence that SeaChange can handle the surge in absentee voting this year as people practice social distancing to avoid contracting the coronavirus, Whitmire said.

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, he said. The general election, featuring a divisive presidential race, is expected to generate a record in absentee voting.

“We’re not getting a warm and fuzzy feeling that they can handle this,” Whitmire said. “We are actively seeking sustainable solutions.”

The state could keep SeaChange from working in the state after the primary or at least discourage new counties from using the firm for the general election, he said.

More heavily populated S.C. counties hire outside firms to handle printing and mailing of their large volume of absentee ballots, Whitmire said.

Other S.C. counties that use SeaChange include Berkeley, Dorchester, Beaufort, Horry, Greenville, Spartanburg, Aiken and Orangeburg. 

Doug Sunde, SeaChange’s vice president for election services, declined comment Wednesday on South Carolina possibly banning his company.

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