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Richland Co. Election Board hears criticism at meeting to certify results

The beleaguered Board spent the 3.5 hour meeting certifying the count and listening to criticism about Tuesday's primaries

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Voters, elected officials, and poll workers spent hours on Thursday criticizing the Richland County Voter Registration and Elections office for how it handled Tuesday's primary.

After long lines, a lack of poll workers, and confusion over closed locations, the election results were certified.

In a Thursday meeting, the Board certified the primary results from Tuesday’s criticized election.

During the three-and-a-half-hour meeting, they heard fierce criticism for how Tuesday unfolded.

County Representative and Democrat Annie McDaniel particularly criticized the Board’s decision not to approve some provisional ballots.

“If those individuals went to the incorrect precinct, it wasn't their fault. We did not send notifications out letting folks know this is the precinct you need to be going to,” Rep. McDaniel said.

The Board spent the first two hours of the meeting deciding provisional ballots. Largely, they decided not to accept dozens of provisional ballots from voters whom cast them at the wrong location.

Mary Pringle was one of those voters.

“I've been voting here since I was in 11th grade, and I would hate to think my vote would not be cast cause I was in the wrong place,” Pringle told the Board.

They decided not to count her ballot. She then left the room and began crying.

“They get there, then they have to stand in line for two to five hours? And you not have compassion? Then that makes me not want to have compassion for the people working here your, in particular, your interim director,” Rep. McDaniel said to the Board after Pringle spoke.

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McDaniel said she understood the new Board, put in place last year, was still learning the ropes and had her support. But she urged them to right the ship as quickly as possible.

The Board also heard criticism from one of Tuesday's poll workers, Eloise Fomby-Denson.

“We had lines, standing lines all. Day. Long. All day. Then you wonder why is it people don't want to work? Why do we have a problem recruiting? Poor pay! Poor worker conditions, and lack of equipment,” Fomby-Denson said with her voice rising.

She has been a poll worker in Richland County since 2007 and said she could easily understand how people were not inclined to volunteer after what happened Tuesday.

“We were assigned nine people. Two people didn't show up. We requested additional people, in writing, I requested more laptops, we didn't get them. Okay?” Fomby-Denson continued telling the Board.

Led by Chairman Charles Austin, the Board discussed how to fix these issues before the runoff elections in two weeks.

Austin said they wanted to review how polling location closures were decided.

“In one instance we had I think two or three precincts combined, but the number of people was extensive, something like 5,000 plus people” Austin said.

Later, he asked if it was possible for poll workers from a less-visited location to move to a location more crowded, particularly after polls close.

Tuesday, some voters were standing in line past midnight at crowded precincts.

Interim Election Director Terry Graham told Austin and the other Board members the office will have new training sessions next week for poll workers and ask all known poll workers to consider working the runoff elections.

The Board also asked for a finalized list of polling locations for the runoffs as soon as possible.

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