Lexington penny tax referendum could double time, cause issues - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Chairman: Lexington penny referendum 'doubles' size of November ballot


Lexington County Council voted Wednesday night to put the Penny Progress initiative up for a public referendum in November.

State law requires that each part of the bill be placed on the ballot, and that could double the amount of time each voter is at the polls.

"This thing will be about nine pages on our ballot," Lexington County Election Commission Chairman Gene Wilbur said, "and we have to deal with about nine pages as is. We're doubling the size of the ballot."

That means that each voter will have to be provided with the referendum. Also, voters will have to read through 18 pages of questions before the next voter can enter the booth. Wilbur said that he's already short-staffed and he believes this would take long lines to a new level.

County Council Chairman Johnny Jeffcoat says the council was aware that the ballot would be long when they voted on it Wednesday night, but he says their hands are tied.

"The law is very specific that we put each of those projects on the ballot," Jeffcoat said.

Still, Wilbur thinks that the referendum puts them in a less than desirable situation.

"I have no problem that we followed state statute," Wilbur said. "Had we been notified in time to determine what impact that would have on us, we could have gone to our legislative delegation and asked them to support a bill to change the statute."

With lawmakers gone for the year, that option is long past. Plus, county council has already moved the question to the ballot. 

At this point, Wilbur says two things will get the Elections Commission ahead of the massive ballot -- extra space and more help.

"One extra person is all we're asking for," Wilbur said. "One full-time person."

Jeffcoat believes that Wilbur won't have to worry about that.

"We have offered  help," Jeffcoat said. "We will have as much help as he feels he needs there."

The lengthy ballot will also be mailed to voters. If the voter decides to vote in one race and only returns one page of the ballot, Wilbur said the voting machines may not count the vote.

As of right now, Wilbur said there is no solution and Jeffcoat said the county can't override state law. If there is a solution, Jeffcoat said it needs to be found by November.

"We will work with him and try to make things better," Jeffcoat said. "I would suggest, maybe that's what we could do is sit down with him and see if we can't work something out."

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