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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 .

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.

Statement on yesterday’s primary elections

I was so fed up yesterday evening I fired this off in a series of tweets.

“As I do every election, I spent time today visiting polling locations in our community and thanking the volunteers. From my visit and conversations with the poll workers, as well as the voters waiting in line, it’s apparent we still have issues in Richland County.

While I look forward to the report from the election commission and the election office, I know what I’ve seen first-hand today. Too few staff. Too few equipment. Too many problems.

Certainly, this pandemic affected the number of volunteers; however, when names of volunteers from the South Carolina State Guard are given to your county election office, and those volunteers are not contacted, it makes me question the judgment of the office.

When FIVE large precincts are combined into one location and only two keyboards to sign-in voters are sent to the poll, it makes me question the judgment of the office.

For these reasons and more, I call on the Richland County Election Commission to move swiftly to hire a permanent director. I also call on my Richland County delegation members to move swiftly to help me and Representative Finlay appoint a Republican to the vacant seat on the commission.

My colleagues and I are tired of this constant struggle on behalf of our voters and it is absolutely imperative the Richland County Voter Registration & Elections Officer and the Election Commission review what went right and wrong and fix any issues long before the November elections are here. “

No Republican on Richland Election Commission

I don’t need to remind everyone of the fiasco that has been Richland County elections.

Y’all remember, right? The hours long 2012 lines at polling places because not enough machines were sent to polling places … or the time we had to get a new Elections Director … or the time we had to get a new Election Commission or the time we had to get ANOTHER new Election Commission … or when Republicans were told in 2016 there wasn’t a primary (but there was) … or missing ballots last year …or, I’ll stop. I seriously could go on and on with the problems in this office – or rather pressue from outside the office?

It’s been one mess after another.

Finally, last year, I worked with Kirkman Finlay (R) to push to get 1 Republican on the board (which, afterall, is required by law).

Craig Plank was the Republican. Craig has served before and has tried to fix problems and build consensus in Richland County before. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done in the county. Today he submitted his resignation letter to the Governor. Can I blame him? No.

Since he joined the Commission, he’s has been working to replace the previous Director (I believe the 6th Director in 6 years?) and it’s taken almost a year for the Commission to work towards getting a permanent Director in place – you know, something that would seem beneficial before statewide elections in June and November.

After more than a year, the Commission has lost out on their first choice. I’m curious to see when a qualified permanent Director will be named and, more importantly, when we can get a full board (which will still only have 1 Republican when we do). More to come…

I thank Craig for his efforts against when the odds seem to be stacked against reforming and fixing the county office.

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.

WANTED: Board of Voter Registration and Elections


CLICK HERE TO PRINT APPLICATION

From the Post and Courier

Gov. McMaster removes elections board in SC’s capital county that missed 1,040 votes
By Andy Shain ashain@postandcourier.com

Ballentine said he is not surprised McMaster decided to fire all board members

“This all shows the importance of who we place on these boards and commissions,” Ballentine said. “We have not filled these posts with the most qualified people.”

Until a debacle involving the delegation-appointed county Recreation Commission in 2016, the legislative delegation voted on an entire slate of board nominees that came from a special application review committee and could not make changes, Ballentine said.

The 17-member delegation also met just once a year, unlike the Lexington County lawmakers who gather about six times a year, said Ballentine, whose district includes both counties.

“There is no oversight (in Richland),” he said. “We had no idea what these people were doing after they were appointed.”

PREVIOUSLY ON NATHAN’S NEWS: Election Mess , Recreation Mess

Richland County – sands through the hourglass

Daysofourlives

As I kid, I “grew up” watching Days of our Lives with my Mom.

This was back during the days of those rather large VHS recorders and my Mom would “set the timer” every day to record her show and watch after she had finished her day teaching at Greenville Tec (25+ years) and making dinner for our family. When I went off to college years later, I happened to catch an episode or two and it seemed the “characters were still the same”.

I share this because it seems like I’m watching the same thing here in Richland County. Again.

First the Election Fiasco and then the Recreation Mess.

While I’ve been one of the first elected officials to call for drastic measures in both instances , it takes awhile for resolution to occur. While the Elections Director was not fired – she was at least finally replaced. While the Recreation Director has not been fired – he has at least been relived of his duties – until further notice.

In both instances, it took time. More time than I – or you – believed necessary. But that’s politics and that’s what happens when you have a larger block of votes against you.

My constituents recall years ago when a Senator unceremoniously removed my appointment to the Recreation Commission. I knew then that some members of the Legislative Delegation were too much “involved” in the operations of the Commission. I was told our commissioner was removed because he “wasn’t voting correctly” (verbatim from the Senator).

I agree with an editorial I read today . Some of us have been asking questions; what have the others been doing? Helping or hindering?

Here’s a question I have for the legal minds out there: Can a commissioner be removed (like my appointment was years ago) simply by having enough votes to remove him/her? If so, then I will ask my colleagues to remove the current commissioners – much like we did the Elections Commission (except for one holdover).

If we don’t remove the Commissioners (along with the Director), it means this soap opera will continue just as Days of Our Lives has for years. Same characters and basically the same story line. One of these isn’t good for ratings; the other isn’t good for our employees, our children and our taxpayers.

Richland County: It’s happening…again

2016 GOP primary

Everyone makes mistakes. But it seems Richland County is getting “real good” at making “mistakes” lately: the county Penny Tax county Recreation …. county elections .

Thanks to my neighbor, who first brought this to my attention April 29th when he walked over and showed me the letter you see above, I learned 203 voters in our community received this letter…by mistake.

The letter begins:

“You requested an absentee ballot for the REPUBLICAN Primary on June 14th, 2016, but there will be no REPUBLICAN primary for any of the offices you are eligible to vote….Therefore, you will NOT be receiving a REPUBLICAN ballot for June 14, 2016.

Not sure how the county didn’t know there was a Republican race out here. It’s the only Republican race in the entire county so it should stand out. I would hope they wouldn’t “forget about us” about here – but looks like they did.

The State wrote about it this week and I’ve copied some of the article below.

RICHLAND COUNTY, SC

More than 200 voters in Richland County mistakenly were told by the beleaguered county elections office that they could not vote absentee in the June Republican primary for state House District 71.

Thousands of voters across the county requested absentee ballots for the June 14 primary. Most of them correctly received letters from the Richland County Voter Registration and Elections office telling them there is no Republican primary for them to vote in, elections director Samuel Selph said.

But 203 voters in House District 71, who are eligible to vote in the county’s sole Republican primary, received those letters by mistake, Selph said.

“We were just trying to be proactive” by informing voters when there were no primaries in their districts, Selph said. “We made a mistake and sent it to some people in District 71, and we corrected that. … You don’t like for these things to happen, naturally.”

Read more here

The county has since mailed those 203 voters a corrected letter (see below) and it’s my hope that all voters will receive their absentee ballots and that come June 14th, every vote will count and the county will have the legal number of (working) machines at every precint.

2016 GOP correction

What will our June Primaries in Richland tell us?


Actual video sent to me by constituent November 2012 at Dutch Fork Middle School.

With June primaries just weeks away, and with the ongoing drama that lingers in the Richland County Elections Office (now back – at least for now – to a Voter Registration piece and a separate Elections piece), I want to continue to keep you informed.

For those who haven’t read Nathan’s News in the past several months, here’s a link that can help you catch up on what has happened, what I’ve been doing to help fix, and what possibly can be happening soon.

Tonight, I’m sharing information I requested earlier this week from the Elections Office.

Click this link to see Richland County precinct names, locations, number of workers that should be there on election day, number of voters and number of machines that should be there on election day

That’s a good plan – as long as it’s executed.

Of course, based on the fiasco we saw before, there are several questions that we hope will have positive answers this time around.

* Will we have long waits? (Precinct sizes have been reduced, we have enough machines, and it appears there is a plan in place – see link above – to help reduce wait time. Let’s hope it’s executed)

* How will we know where to vote this time? (I checked on this as well this week and have been told notifications will start being mailed within the next two weeks. Check your mail box and be sure to READ your card to see the precinct name – it could be new – and the LOCATION)

* Will we have enough volunteers? (Several poll workers shared with me they would not work again after what they lived through last time. Add to those concerns, the increase in number of precincts and getting the needed number of volunteers may be a huge challenge)

* What will turnout be? (Talk about voter suppression: people having to wait for five hours and then votes not being counted and then all the other drama ever since. There will be many that sit home. Of course, primaries don’t bring out large crowds anyway; but even less may show up because of the lack of confidence in the county)

* Will all the ballots be counted? (Obviously a serious concern)

* What is the status of the SLED investigation into Howard Jackson’s allegations and information? (I have little patience for things; but unfortunately things of this magnitude take time. I’m sure when everything has been reviewed, Chief Keel and his department will share what they have learned. What will they learn and what will be the outcome from that?)

One big question that has been on everyone’s mind for months is what will the county delegation do with the Elections Board? As I’ve shared previously, I hope my colleagues will join me in replacing them all with new members . Stay tuned….our delegation should be meeting in the next few weeks.

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