Richland Co. Board of Elections meeting sparks fiery moments between board member, state senator

Published: Feb. 14, 2019 at 12:29 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The Richland County Board of Elections held a meeting Wednesday under a cloud of turmoil.

Just days removed from Director Roky Suleman's sudden resignation, a new director took the reins.

Former Deputy Director Thad Hall’s first order of business as the new director was to address the 1,040 votes not counted on Election Night last November in Richland County because of broken machines.

Hall said two machines counting absentee ballots at the Richland County election office malfunctioned and one other malfunctioned at a polling place in Rice Creek. He vowed the board will check the machines in the future and bring in more manpower to better respond to any problems.

In the meantime, he insists the state has completed an audit of their election process, and auditors gave Richland County a passing grade.

"We looked, and none of the race results changed in any way" said Hall.

From the outset, the Richland County Board of Elections appeared divided with Board member Shirley Mack complaining over process and procedure. That's when State Senator Dick Harpootlian took the podium during public comment, suggesting the problem lies not in machines, but in the Board members seated directly in front of him. It led to a heated exchange.

"The job ain't getting done- the votes aren't getting counted." Harpootlian said.

Mack countered, "But that's not my responsibility."

Harpootlian begged to differ: "Well ma'am it is — you're part of this commission and, if you or anybody on this commission thinks they can't get that job done, they need to quit."

He continued, "Nobody trusts the Richland County elective process. They don't trust it. I don't trust it. I came over here to find out who is part of the solution, and who is part of the problem...and you're part of the problem."

Harpootlian brought a letter from Governor McMaster’s office and records showing Mack has not completed her required classes to sit on the board in a timely manner, finishing just three of six classes in 18 months. In Harpootlian's view, it suggests she is unfit to serve and says it's time for a change.

"I'm here to say you're going to be gone next Tuesday," Harpootlian warned.

Mack shrugged off the warning

"Whatever the matter is,” she said, “I did what I had to do and I'm doing the best for the citizens of South Carolina.”

She later suggested she could not complete the courses because of medical issues and suggested that the State Elections board is aware and sympathetic to her situation.

Stay with WISTV and for the latest in this developing story.

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