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Stop me if you’ve heard this before….Richland County Election Issues

Like you, I learned of the recent resignation via the news media . Like you, I’m not shocked or surprised anymore. But I am curious as to why the Richland County Elections Director resigned. I will be calling her to see what she will share.

I won’t berate the issues we’ve all seen and experienced through the years (click here for a few). What I will do is simply state this….as one of only TWO Republicans in the Richland County Delegation, it is very frustrating to see things happen over and over and still not be in position to help remedy. The FIFTEEN Democrats control the boards and commissions The Election Commission being one of those. By rules, there is ONE member “of the minority party” (that’s Republican in Richland County) that serves on the board, but you can imagine he/she’s influence is miniscule to any decisions the board makes.

From The Post and Courier

COLUMBIA — Richland County’s elections director submitted a letter of resignation after two years in the position.

The county’s Board of Voter Registration & Elections chose Alexandria Stephens for the job in June 2020 after a year of searching for someone to fill the historically troubled position.

Stephens’ resignation is effective Aug. 29. The letter did not say why Stephens resigned or where she may go next, board Chair Anjanette President said.

Stephens was not at the Aug. 18 meeting where the board accepted her resignation. She could not be reached for comment.

″(Her resignation) was a shock and it was very concerning to me,” President said. “I’m not sure what the issues were or her concerns, so it was a shock to the board.”

Stephens, who had previously worked as an elections coordinator in Alabama, stepped in after the June 2020 primary in which some Richland County voters had to wait up to seven hours because there weren’t enough workers to staff every polling place. She earned the praise of state lawmakers that year when the November 2020 election went smoothly despite a significant number of absentee ballots.

Problems arose again in November 2021 when the state demanded to oversee a partial recount of the Columbia mayor runoff election before polls closed because voters had reported being turned away because of faulty machines.

President said the board will ask the South Carolina Election Commission for help in the November election, including requesting someone from the state to act as director.

Deputy Director Terry Graham will assume the responsibilities of the role for the upcoming Nov. 8 election. Graham was tapped in as interim director after Stephens’ predecessor, Rokey Suleman, resigned in 2019 and the interim director appointed after him left the position.

“I’ll always be the last man standing,” Graham said. “I’ve been through this before; didn’t want it to happen again, but of course I’m here. I’m committed and want to make sure the citizens of Richland County get a fair and impartial election.”

Graham said while he understood Stephens probably had a reason for moving on, he was sad to see her leave.

“I know we were heading in the right direction,” Graham said. “I’m a little bit disappointed because I was in for the long haul with her.”

Graham has plans for the upcoming election. He wants to increase the stipend poll workers receive, which currently ranges from $135 to $195, to help incentivize more people to sign up.

“What I did in my former location in Chester was a $30 increase, and if I can get that $30 supplement for all poll workers it’ll be a great improvement,” Graham said. “I think you wouldn’t have as many problems trying to get people to come and work.”

Richland County elections have historically been a hotbed for issues.

Suleman’s resignation came after the county failed to count more than 1,000 votes in the November 2018 election, which led Gov. Henry McMaster to remove the entire board.

In March 2019, the new elections board voted unanimously to hire another elections director, Tammy Smith, from Wilson County, Tenn. But Smith turned down the job because she and the board couldn’t agree on a contract.

The county’s problems with elections date back more than a decade. In 2010, the county failed to count 1,100 votes, causing it to incorrectly certify the election. In 2012, voters dealt with long lines because the county failed to roll out enough voting machines. In 2016, the state stepped in to help after the county missed a recount deadline.

Board member Shelia Washington said the county will make sure the November election happens without issue.

“We’re doing our best to make sure the election runs smoothly and nothing goes slacking,” Washington said. “And we do want all support from the community.”

Update from Richland County Elections Director

I met with the new Director several weeks ago to offer my help to her and her team so that our voters will face less issues than previous elections in the county.

Some of the concerns I shared were:

1) Lack of poll workers at precincts.
2) Lack of machines at precincts.
3) Lack of working machines at precincts.
4) Number of laptops to check-in voters at precincts AND the inability of those laptops to access voters for all precincts that may be combined that location

Since that time, I’ve heard from a handful of you that have applied to be poll workers but have not heard back. I have given those names to the elections office and, if you have not heard from them by now, PLEASE EMAIL ME AT NATHANBALLENTINE@SCHOUSE.GOV and let me know the approx date you applied (ie, early June, late June, etc) so I can have them check and contact you and get you connected.

Below is a response from the new director. It appears they have exceeded their goal of workers (which is good because MANY do not show up the day of election for whatever reason). I will continue to get answers and do what i can to help this office do their job.

Republican Craig Plank appointed to Richland County Election Commission

For years, there have been issues with our local Richland County Election Commission . Rather than rehash those, click that link and you’ll remember the nightmares.

In any event, I was very pleased this week to learn that Craig Plank had been approved by the Governor’s Office to serve on the commission. It’s my hope, Craig, along with independed Duncan Buell, and the 3 other Democrats will finally “fix” one of the most vital parts of our democracy.

NEVER should we experience what we did in 2012 , and never should votes go “missing”. I need to stop before I get fired up again.

Why is this news? There are 15 Democrat members on the Richland County Delegation. There are only 2 Republicans – me and Rep. Kirkman Finlay. Law requires there to be at least one member of the “majority party” and “minority party”.

After reviewing more than 100 applications and hearing from more than 50 applicants over a period of 4 hours, the delegation voted. Unforutnately, the Delegation did not appoint a Republican in the Top 5 – although we were told one of the 5 “voted Republican”. Equally shocking, 3 of the top 5 vote getters didn’t even bother to attend the public meeting to present themselves before the delegation.

In any event, I feel better that we were able to have the former Chairman of the Richland School District Two Board of Trustees appointed and serve our county in this capacity.

Better things ahead for our county once the commission hires a new director and works to ensure smoother elections for all.

Richland County Elections Fiasco: The Final Report


Video above from Dutch Fork Middle School, sent to me by a constituent on Election Day. That story first posted here

If you’re a Richland County voter, who waited in lines for several hours last November, or a taxpayer, who is now having to foot the $100,000 tab for this mess, you might want to read the final report.

It’s the least the County owes you. Click here for the final report released this week

Here is more from The State…

By Dawn Hinshaw

RICHLAND COUNTY, SC — Richland County Council finally agreed Tuesday to pay more than $100,000 in bills for the lawyers who cleaned up the county’s November election mess.But not until after some unusual procedural moves, a change of heart by two members and the chairman’s threat to enforce a time limit for Councilman Bill Malinowski as he questioned charges for travel and telephone conversations.

The council, which had put off the decision twice before, agreed to pay $72,423.10 for lawyer Steve Hamm to investigate Election Day problems and recommend how to fix them; $9,348.75 for lawyer John Nichols, who represented demoted elections director Lillian McBride; and $17,924.20 for Helen McFadden, who kept the election results from being overturned in court.

Read the full article here .

More on Richland County Election Mess


Photo by Shawn Drury

From SC Patch

Just when the controversy regarding Richland County elections seemed to by dying down, events took another turn on Monday evening.

Liz Crum, the chairwoman of the Richland County Elections Commission, will resign her position, effective Tuesday morning.

Crum oversaw elections in Richland County during a horrendous 2012 Election Day that included hours-long waits to vote.

Crum, who spoke to media following the commission’s meeting on Monday evening, also called for Director Lillian McBride to step down.

“I no longer have confidence in Ms. McBride to lead elections,” said Crum, who said her decision was made harder due to the fact that she considers McBride a friend.

Crum’s position is unpaid. McBride draws approximately $89,000 per year in salary. Rep. Nathan Ballentine and Sen. John Courson have also called for McBride to be replaced. McBride did not comment on Monday when asked about Crum’s decision, nor did Gary Baum, the Assistant Director.

Ballentine reiterated his call for McBride to be replace. He gave the following statement to Patch:

“Liz Crum has listened to the overwhelming voices of Richland County voters and I thank her for understanding that personnel changes are needed to restore confidence in the election process. While Ms. Crum and only a small number of my delegation colleagues understand more changes are needed, I’m getting the feeling the Election Board – the only ones apparently able to make personnel decisions according to the Attorney General – seems to have no interest in publicly discussing the one decision everyone knows needs to be made. How many more weeks of ‘studying reports’ do they need?”

Antjuan Seawright, spokesperson for Sen. Darrell Jackson, who chairs the Richland County Legislative Delegation, said Jackson would have no comment.

Read more from The Patch

Richland County Election Analysis: Duncan Buell

I’ve never met Professor Buell (Computer Science Professor) but I hear he is very good at what he does.

So…the day after Thanksgiving, while Dutch Fork is playing for the Lower State Championship , while Karen is busy decorating the house, and – yes – the eve of the Carolina/Clemson game , I’m reviewing his data/findings.

Earlier I tweeted a few items that peaked my interest.

If you’d like to review the report, you can click here: DraftReport20121123

Of course, on Monday we finally get to hear from the Richland County Election Commission and it’s Director. Hopefully we’ll get all our questions answered and then make the decisions needed to restore the voters confidence in the election process here in the Capital City.

What questions do you have regarding the Richland County election mess?

Almost three weeks after Election Day, I’ll finally be able to get answers that you and I’ve been waiting to hear.

Today’s notification to the delegation states “the reason this meeting cannot be held any sooner is because Steve Hamm, attorney representing the Electdions Commission, will not be available until this time. It is imperative that he is in attendance for this meeting”.

Since this meeting will be a “Legislative Fact Finding Hearing”, there will be no public input; however, as your voice in the General Assembly and in Richland County, I’d like to hear from you what questions you’d like to be asked.

Post them in the comment section or contact me through the website here .

Of course, if you aren’t in the Chapin/Dutch Fork/Irmo area OR want to contact your local House member of Senator, you can click here to find him/her and do just that. (Note, newly elected House Members Beth Bernstein, MaryGail Douglas and Kirkman Finlay do not yet have email or phone contact information yet. Nor does newly elected Senator Thomas McElveen)

If you would like to attend, you may do so on Monday, November 26, 2012 at 1pm in room 105 of the Gressette Building. Should our meeting be rescheduled again, I will certainly keep you posted.

Elections update: Richland County needs poll workers

Are you interested in working at the polls on Election Day? Poll Workers are needed in Richland County to serve at the polls on election day.

The deadline for applying to be a poll worker for the June Primary is now TOMORROW Thursday, May 8.

To accommodate the 25 new precincts due to be in operation for the June 10 Primary, 300 extra poll workers were needed. They are close to reaching that goal, however, there is a real need for workers in our community, the Northwest area of the County – specifically Irmo and Chapin.

The poll worker coordinator suggested that this close to the deadline, it would be more expediant to come into the Election Commission office located at 2020 Hampton Streetto fill out the paperwork necessary to be considered an employee. This should not take more than 15 minutes. You will need to complete both their online training and an in-person training prior to the election. For more information, call the Election Commission at576-2200.

Each poll worker will be paid $120 for their time both training and on Election Day combined. Consider this service a way to say “thank you” to all of our public servants who fight for our right to have free and fair elections as part of our democratic republic.

Remember, the best way to insure fair and efficient elections is to have competent and honest poll workers running them.

Qualifications:

A resident of Richland County, or an adjoining county
If age 18 +, you MUST be a qualified registered voter to work on election day
16 & 17 year olds may serve as poll managers
Complete online and in-person training
If you are interested, please contact the Election Commission Office at 576-1512 or Click Here for the Poll Worker Application.

Protecting our elections

NathansNews readers may recall years ago how I led the fight to help assure Richland County would not have another fiasco like we saw at many locations – some right here in our community. For the past decade, I’ve been a watchdog working to have your vote count while also not taking hours at the polls.

Whether you are a Republican, Democrat, Independent or whether it’s a local race, state race, or national race – every legal citizen should be able to vote and everyone should be able to know the results were valid and that their ballot that was counted had their choices on it.

Voting in free and fair elections is what sets our American democracy apart and makes our country the greatest in the world. Ensuring that this right is upheld is of utmost importance to my colleagues and me. On Thursday, I signed on to H. 4919, which is a bill that will make it easier to vote while making it harder for fraudulent votes to be cast in South Carolina. Although this bill still has to work its way through the legislative process (where it could be altered), here are some of the protections that the bill proposes:

Currently, ‘in-person’ absentee voting extends up to 45 days before an election. This bill repeals the “in-person” absentee voting system, so all absentee ballots would have to be submitted by mail.

H. 4919 creates 12 days of “early voting” with an acceptable form of ID, just as voting on Election Day. These early voting locations must be “brick and mortar”, and offer every ballot for that particular election – giving every individual a chance to go vote if voting on election day is not possible.

This bill enforces voter ID requirements when voting absentee, just as they are enforced on Election Day. IDs would mirror what is already in South Carolina law: SCDL, state ID card, passport, military ID, voter registration card with a picture.

Every absentee ballot that is submitted must have the signature of a witness. With this, witnesses would be required to print their name beside their signature and provide an address so their identity can be verified.

Absentee envelopes would be opened prior to Election Day so results are available by the close of polls. To safeguard this, any disclosure of any election-related information before the polls close is a felony.

Finally, “Fusion voting” laws would be repealed, meaning a name could appear on the ballot only once. “Fusion voting” allows a candidate to appear on multiple parties’ ballot lines, essentially pooling the votes for them.

I anticipate that a sound and solid bill which safeguards our elections will make its way to the Floor, and I will vote in favor of it when given the opportunity. If you have ideas of ways to improve the bill, please let me know.

UPDATED: Voting Locations for 10/12 School Board Election

Just received these updates from Richland County this afternoon! Please be sure you know what location to go vote on election day. If you are uncertain of your precinct name below, click here and find that out.

Dutch Fork 1 / Dutch Fork 2 Dutch Fork Middle School 15828 Old Tamah Rd, Irmo, SC 29063

Dutch Fork 3 / Dutch Fork 4 River Springs Church 1007 W Shady Grove Rd, Irmo, SC 29063

Friarsgate 1 / Friarsgate 2 Friarsgate Park 1712 Chadford Rd, Irmo, SC 29063

Harbison 1 / Harbison 2 Harbison Community Ctr 106 Hillpine Rd, Columbia, SC 29212

Oak Pointe 1/ Oak Pointe 2 Oak Pointe Elementary Sch 1 River Bottom Rd, Irmo, SC 29063

Oak Pointe 3 Hope Lutheran Church 1400 Kennerly Rd, Irmo, SC 29063

Old Friarsgate / Riversprings 2
Dutch Fork Elementary 7900 Broad River Rd, Irmo, SC 29063

Parkridge 1 / Parkridge 2
Grace United Methodist 410 Harbison Blvd, Columbia, SC 29212

Riversprings 1/ Riversprings 3 Decided Church 2101 Kennerly Rd, Irmo, SC 29063

Riverwalk Episcopal Ch/St Simon/St Jude 1110 Kinley Rd, Irmo, SC 29063

Spring Hill
Chapin Middle School 11661 Broad River Rd, Chapin, SC 29036

Springville 1 / Springville 2
Lake Murray Elementary 1531 Three Dog Rd, Chapin, SC 29036