Richland County councilman: Current voting system isn't transparent

Richland County councilman: Current voting system isn't transparent

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A member of the Richland County council has accused other members of keeping the county's business in the shadows.

During Tuesday's county council meeting, a proposal to put the council "on the record" with all its decisions failed.

Some have said the way county council votes is shockingly archaic and doesn't allow voters to know how elected officials are voting or if they're even voting at all.

Other council members said the system is working and has been for years.

"I mean, what are you hiding? Why don't you want us to know what you're voting on and who you're voting for?" asked Lower Richland resident Mary Sims.

After a vote to amend a sewer ordinance, Sims left wondering who voted for it and who voted against it.

"We have no clue," Sims said. "We don't know how they voted. We don't know who voted on what."

Sims said the problem is how the 11-member council votes.

In the sewer ordinance case, the council used quick "ayes" and "nays" with no raised hands.

Councilman Seth Rose said it's a problem since council members are voting on important issues that cost taxpayers.

"We sit up there. We say, 'All in favor, 'aye,' and all opposed, 'nay.' How do we know who's voting how?" Rose said.

Rose filed a motion that would require all votes to be recorded.

"We could either hit a screen where it records how each council member voted no matter how small or big the issue is," Rose said.

But in the meeting, Rose's proposal was shot down overwhelmingly. He and Councilman Greg Pearce voted to change things. The other nine members voted to keep things the same.

"I frequent my neighborhood meetings all the time," Rose said. "I would hate to walk into one of my neighborhood meetings and have to explain to my constituents why I voted against on the records voting."

But Rose's critics said they're not blocking transparency.

"Richland County government, including its governing body council, is very transparent to the citizens of the county," said County Councilman Jim Manning.

Manning said the verbal voting works.

Chairman Torrey Rush added that council members can request the roll-call vote for any particular vote if they so choose.

"Maybe they're just shy, but I don't think so," said Lower Richland resident Wendy Brawley. "I think it is a lack of the ability to want to be on record and a lack of wanting to be held accountable to the people who sent them here, and that's unfair to us. We vote for them to represent us."

Rush said even in verbal votes where hands aren't raised, the clerk writes down who voted for and against each item. But that might not be true.

Recent council minutes show there are votes that weren't unanimous that don't reflect which council members voted for or against an agenda item.

Councilman Bill Malinowski estimates the technology to record votes would cost taxpayers $10,000 to $15,000.

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