Lancaster County ‘mislabeled’ thumb drive causes 20,000 ballot recount

All of the votes were from absentee in-person and election officials say each vote was counted.
Updated: Nov. 4, 2020 at 5:21 PM EST
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LANCASTER, S.C. (WBTV) - Absentee ballots in one South Carolina county had to be recounted after a mislabeled thumb drive could not be connected with a voting machine.

The 20,000 ballot recount took so long the results did not come in until 6:30 Wednesday morning.

Every single absentee in-person vote got counted because this was human error rather than a computer’s mistake. Mary Ann Hudson, Elections Director in Lancaster County, has been running the election process in Lancaster County for years. So when she made a mistake on election night, she knew exactly what needed to be done.

“It was just something that I had to make right," says Hudson. “It was my job, it’s my responsibility, it was my human error.”

The error? Hudson mislabeled a thumb drive for one of the absentee ballot voting machines. It means the results could have been off by hundreds if not thousands.

“We could have tried to decide that maybe these ballots went to this thumb drive and these ballots went to this thumb drive but it was an all-or-none situation," she says.

The all or none attitude meant recounting more than 20,000 paper absentee ballots for an accurate number. These ballots were only from the in-person absentee voting over the last few weeks. Hudson says the county elections team stayed up well into the morning to get every single vote recounted.

“The error that was made they definitely had to correct it the best that they could and make sure everything is figured out and fixed as it should be," says Doreen Samuel, who lives and voted in Lancaster County.

Samuel’s vote was a part of the 20,000. She voted early to get her vote out of the way and assure it would be counted. She says she can look past the human error causing the recount.

“It’s different if it’s a computer glitch, but I feel like whoever the person that was responsible should be paying more attention because of the importance of a person’s vote," she says.

Samuel’s concern for accuracy is nonexistent and Hudson says everyone else’s should be too.

“We did everything we can to make sure every vote count because we want our voters to be confident in the process," says Hudson.

Some of the ballots got counted an additional time. Hudson says the process for ballots with write-ins is longer, so they had to go over those a third time to make sure everything was up to par.

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