COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina Secretary of State Mark Hammond is seeking his fifth term in office, but Republican challengers looking to unseat him believe his office hasn't kept up with changing technology.
As a result, potential new business owners are growing increasingly frustrated, according to Joshua Putnam, one of Hammond's opponents.
"The Secretary of State's Office doesn't do much of anything right now," Putnam said. "We have one of the weakest offices in the country right now."
The secretary of state is tasked with working with nonprofits, serving as a notary, providing business licenses and trademarks. Hammond said a new business owner can simply visit the secretary of state's website and fill out all required forms electronically.
"You fill them out online and you pay online and then you receive an email after we've viewed and verified the filing and once you receive that email you can open it and that articles of incorporation can be used in any business transaction it would be needed for," Hammond said.
Hammond said that progress is a result of a 2017 project to put every form offered online. He said business filings in the state have increased 33 percent in the last five years and in 2017, the state saw 117,000 filings, a record high.
"Our program is being shopped around the country and other states are looking at what we have here and wanting to implement what we have," Hammond said.
However, his opponents differ on the ease and effectiveness of the current website.
"They are just very slow to use technology and they don't really understand technology so whenever they do a technology upgrade, it's usually outdated technology they shouldn't have ever bought in the first place," Putnam said.
Putnam said he has identified $150,000 of spending within the office's budget he believes could be re-appropriated to aid in the technology shortfall.
"We would then create an open bid process, so we would write the qualifications and what we want the technology to accomplish," he said. "Then we would send it out there to the private firm and bid that bid down, giving us a better price and giving us a better product."
Nelson Faerber, another one of Hammond's challengers, said he envisions a website that sets future business owners up for success.
"What we're looking at is people who are put in a position to structure their entity in the best way appropriate and then they're able to get government out of the way," Faerber said.
Faerber said if elected, he would work to understand the perspective of the employees currently within the office and combine it with his vision for technology.
"I think in Mark's mind he has achieved what would be necessary for technology in this state," Faerber said. "He has been in the office since the internet became popular, I'll just say that."
Kerry Wood is also running for the seat, however, he was unable to take part in the interview for the story.