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Election 2016: Local GOP heeds Trump’s call on vote fraud

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Waccamaw Neck Republicans are answering presidential candidate Donald Trump’s call to guard against voter fraud.

Georgetown County Republican Party Chairman Randy Hollister was peppered with questions Monday about the security of the county’s voting machines and the potential of irregularities at the polls. Members of the Waccamaw Neck Republican Club were encouraged to sign up as poll watchers to monitor voting Nov. 8.

Trump, trailing narrowly in presidential polls, has issued a warning to worried Republicans: The election will be “rigged” against him — and he could lose as a result. “If the election is rigged, I would not be surprised,” he told The Washington Post in an interview.

Trump’s main concern is in states that have no voter ID laws or their laws were ruled unconstitutional by courts. South Carolina requires voters to show one of six forms of picture identification, including permits to carry a concealed weapon. Voters without a picture ID are allowed to cast a provisional ballot. “We may have people vote 10 times,” Trump said. In an interview with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, he asked Republicans to start “watching closely” or the election will be “taken away from us” through fraud.

Since the 2000 election, which ended in a legal battle that stopped recounts of ballots in Florida, paranoia about the nation’s election system has mushroomed. According to a Pew Research Center survey, just 48 percent of Americans were confident that “the votes across the country were accurately counted” in the 2004 election. After 2012, an election with a wider popular vote margin, that percentage fell to 31 percent. Among Republicans, it was 21 percent.

Waccamaw Neck Republicans said they feared the electronic voting machines would malfunction, throwing out their votes, or absentee ballots would be thrown into the trash.

Hollister said he attends meetings of the Georgetown County Board of Voter Registration and Elections and has not seen any irregularities regarding counting of ballots. That’s not to say the other 45 counties in the state are above board, he said, but Georgetown County voter officials appear honest. Voting machines are tested prior to every election, he said.

The most likely source of voter fraud, Hollister said, would come on absentee ballots in the mail. Qualifying voters may apply for an absentee ballot in the mail beginning 30 days before an election. The ballot must be signed by the voter and a witness and checked against voter registration records. Hollister urged eligible members of the Waccamaw Neck Club to vote absentee so lines at the polls would be shorter.

Misinformation about candidates is another concern for Republicans. Waccamaw Neck Republican Club President Jerry Rovner said Democrats in Georgetown were told they would lose their federal benefits if Republican Richard Powers were elected mayor.

Other club members raised the possibility of attracting Hispanics and African Americans to the Republican Party. Hollister said attempts are being made, but it will be a long, slow process. Another member said Michelle Obama’s ancestors were at Friendfield Plantation, and the party would never attract black members as long as President Obama was being routinely criticized.

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