South Carolina voters wait for hours in 90-degree heat to cast ballots

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Voters were plagued with long lines in South Carolina, Georgia, and Nevada on Tuesday.

Some voters in South Carolina's capital city, Columbia, spent more than two hours waiting in line to vote on Tuesday, enduring temperatures above 90 degrees and high humidity, WISTV, an NBC affiliate, reported.

At one polling location in Richmond County, which encompasses Columbia, voting machines were not set up in the morning, so voters were forced to use handwritten paper ballots.

At another location, only two poll workers were present to check-in hundreds of voters. WISTV reported that most of the lines were caused by a lack of poll workers present to check people in.

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The voting issues arose as South Carolina, like the rest of the world, faces a health crisis.

South Carolina is one of 11 states that has experienced a record-high level of coronavirus cases since the beginning of June. On June 1, the state had 12,148 confirmed cases and at least 500 people had died; as of Wednesday morning, it had 15,228 confirmed cases and at least 568 people had died.

"They did not have enough people brave enough to work the polls for the voters," Alice Leeper, a poll worker in a community slightly north of Columbia, told WISTV. "Most of our people are retired. They are over 60 already, like myself … some said, 'I'm not going to vote in this one because of COVID-19," she added.

Richmond County's interim elections commissioner, Terry Graham, scrambled Tuesday morning to recruit additional poll workers, according to WISTV. Members of the State Guard and National Guard filled in at some locations, although a spokesperson for the State Guard said members were volunteering in their personal capacity and not as representatives of the Guard.

"It's one thing to protest and make your voice be heard, but it's another thing to put action behind it," Krashawn Guess, a voter who had been participating in protests following the death of George Floyd, told WISTV, adding, "those that fought before us had to do worse things than this."

Barbara Harmer told the station that it was "uncomfortable" to wait more than an hour to vote, but added, "it's important."

"Simply put, it cannot and should not be this difficult and time consuming to exercise one's basic right to vote," Jaime Harrison, South Carolina's Democratic Senate nominee who will face Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham in November, said in an email. He added that "it is painfully clear that election officials have a lot of work to do ahead of November to make voting accessible for every registered voter in South Carolina."

Turnout for the election topped 21%, far exceeding the 13.8% turnout in 2016 and besting 2018's 20% turnout.

Voters in Georgia and Nevada were also plagued with long lines on Tuesday.

In Georgia, voting machines failed to work properly, there was a shortage of provisional ballots, and absentee ballots did not arrive on time in several Atlanta-area voting precincts.

In Nevada, voters in the Las Vegas area waited as long as five hours to vote, which resulted in criticism from Democratic leaders of Barbara Cegavske, the Republican secretary of state.

"It is imperative the state offer an adequate amount of hygienic, well-organized polling locations and we will continue fighting for these improvements to prevent a repeat in November should we find ourselves under the same circumstances," William McCurdy II, Nevada Democratic Party chair, said on Tuesday.

The chaos for voters came as Democrats across the country are pushing to increase access to absentee voting in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

In Congress, Democrats led by Sen. Kamala Harris of California introduced the VoteSafe Act, a bill that would expand access to no-excuse absentee voting. Several states, including Wisconsin, Michigan, and California, have changed policies to expand access to absentee voting.

Election experts at the Brennan Center for Justice say voting by mail is a safe and secure, and called it "essential for holding a safe election amid Covid-19."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.