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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.

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.

SPECIAL ELECTION: Lexington/Richland School District Five

Everyone knows that I do not endorse locally and stay out of local races. Why? Because local candidates have plenty of opportunity to get their message out, meet with voters, and be seen around town.

I have endorsed statewide and nationally before ( Romney for President , my friend Nikki Haley for Governor , and Rubio for President ) but will always let our community form their own opinions on the men and women right here that should be out hustling for support and spreading the message of why they should earn our vote.

Tonight I did want to be sure that everyone knew important dates relating to the recent vacancy on our School Board.

1) Filing opens – Noon: Friday, July 30, 2021

2) Filing closes – Noon: Monday, August 9, 2021

3) Election Date – Tuesday, October 12, 2021

This is a RICHLAND COUNTY seat up for election so only those in Richland can vote. To check your voter registration, please click here.

Once I hear from the Richland County Elections Office on their staffing and precinct openings, I will certainly pass that information along. It would not surprise me to see precincts voting together at certain locations due to the nature of a special election.

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