Richland Lawmakers Work to Address Election Concerns

Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- The June primary election is right around the corner, and Richland County lawmakers are working to make sure there's not a repeat of the 2012 general election.

"It is fundamental to our democracy that our citizens have access to a ballot," said Representative James Smith.

Smith says the county is complying with a judge's order to split the elections and voter registrations offices into two entities. That also means working to fill the board seats for their commissions.

When the application process closed on Friday, Smith said more than 50 people had put forth their names for consideration.

"I anticipate, given the number of open seats, it's gonna be a new board," said Smith. "I think we're all grateful that we have these folks, in this number, in this quantity and quality of folks who want to serve in this capacity."

Smith addressed the possibility of previous board members applying as well.

"I think everybody is subject to reappointment or removal. All terms have run so it'll be really a question of what the delegation does. I can't predict, but I would see a majority new board," he said.

Lawmakers are also moving forward with new legislation that will allow counties to operate with joint elections and voter registration offices, but the bill goes further than fixing a legal problem. It also allows for oversight of elections from the state elections commission.

"The process today we have now, you have to file a complaint with SLED. You have to get SLED to come in a seize things and it becomes a quasi-law enforcement, criminal process if you will. Here we provide a very important administrative process that can be exercised immediately," said Smith of his bill. He says the legislation has already cleared the house and is currently in the Senate.

Under the proposed bill a complaint to the South Carolina Elections Commission about a lack of machines or issues with counting ballots could trigger the Commission's involvement and even the removal of a county's elections director.

"These are important changes that I think will address specifically what happened in the 2012 election," said Smith.

He says that bill and those new appointments could be made in as few as two weeks. He says all selections will still require an official appointment from the governor.


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