Election officials: Voter fraud rare, protections in place to prevent fraud

Updated: Sep. 30, 2020 at 3:53 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The presidential election is just over a month away. Officials with the Charleston County Board of Elections and Voter Registration say they have systems in place to help prevent voter fraud.

There are two ways people can vote which include absentee or in-person on election day. When voting absentee there are two choices: by mail or in-person ahead of election day.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, more people are choosing to vote absentee to avoid crowds in an effort to decrease their contact with other people who may have the virus.

Charleston County election officials estimate a third of voters in the county may vote absentee.

President Donald Trump has made claims saying mail-in voting leads to fraud. However, experts say voter fraud by mail is rare.

The Director of Elections for Charleston County, Joe Debney, says voter fraud is not something they see often. He also says there’s no evidence of more fraud in relation to mail-in voting in South Carolina.

“I want to ensure that every voter in Charleston County has access to the ballot,” Debney said. “We don’t want to have barriers for voters we want to ensure that they get in and they can get out and they know at the end of the day that their ballot has been cast securely.”

He says when a voter requests an absentee ballot by mail it is marked in their system showing the ballot was requested. Trump suggested for his supporters vote twice to ensure their vote is counted, however this is illegal.

“If we see any type of voter fraud in this office, we will do what we always have done, send it to the [State Law Enforcement Division] and have SLED prosecute that to the fullest extend under South Carolina state law,” Debney said.

If someone tried to vote twice there are protections in place to prevent that from happening. Debney says if someone were to go vote in-person the poll worker will see in the system that a person has already requested an absentee ballot.

However, there are circumstances where someone requests an absentee ballot and they don’t receive it or they decide that they’d rather vote on election day instead of mailing in their ballot.

In this case, a voter will be issued a “challenge ballot” at the polls. Debney says it’s a paper ballot that must be reviewed by the Charleston County Board of Elections to ensure that the person has not already submitted an absentee ballot. Challenge ballots are reviewed at a certification hearing in the days following election day.

Election officials say once you vote into a voting machine that vote cannot be removed. A challenge ballot ensures a person’s vote isn’t counted twice.

In South Carolina, if someone would like to vote by mail they must request the ballot.

Debney says every absentee ballot that is mailed has a barcode that is unique to that voter. The barcode is scanned into their system.

“There are multiple checks in that process to make sure there is no fraud being committed,” Debney said.

For more information on voting regulations in South Carolina and upcoming deadlines visit https://www.scvotes.gov/.

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