A decade of woes: Here’s a quick history of problems with Richland County elections

A decade of woes: Here’s a quick history of problems with Richland County elections
After another rough election day, Richland County is under renewed pressure from elected officials. (Source: WVIR)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The woes many Richland County voters experienced Tuesday are not new to the county.

In fact, there are records of multiple election issues throughout the past decade.

The issues stretch back to 2010, according to an executive order issued by the governor in 2019, news releases from voting rights advocacy groups, and various news reports.

Let’s break them down.

In 2010, more than a thousand votes in Richland County weren’t counted properly, and therefore were not included in the board-certified vote count.

According to a report on those 2012 issues, it was due to a shortage of voting machines and errors by made by the Board of Voter Registration and Elections.

In 2016, Richland County had to ask the state to help after they missed a primary election recount deadline.

Then in 2018, the county lost more than a thousand votes again -- and the director at the time lost the confidence of the board.

That was the final straw for the governor.

In 2019, Gov. Henry McMaster signed an executive order removing everyone on the Richland County elections board.

A year later, in the Democratic presidential primary, there were still problems despite new leadership. More than 70 ballots disappeared, but were later found.

All of these events led up to June 9, 2020 primary -- when lines to vote in Richland County stretched into the night and some waited more than three hours to cast their ballot.

Richland County is now under renewed pressure from elected officials.


State Sen. Dick Harpootlian was supportive of McMaster’s move to force the Richland County election board to resign in 2019, and on Wednesday he wrote a letter to the South Carolina State Election Commission urging them to take action.

Citing a section of the South Carolina Code of Laws that addresses non-compliant county election boards, Harpootlian asked the Commission to “do what we on the Delegation cannot do. You can investigate, issue corrective instructions and remove or ask for the termination of Commissioners or staff who don’t comply.”

Harpootlian also said he and his colleauges are “bewildered as to how these problems continue to recur.”

Rep. Beth Bernstein was more direct online -- calling for “the nuclear option.”

And Columbia Mayor Steve Benjmain tweeted, “democracy really shouldn’t be this difficult…again.”

The South Carolina Republican Party also shared these concerns and said there were “clear hiccups in polling locations,” and added they “need to be addressed and fixed before the General Election in November.”

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