COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - From long lines to confusion on where to go, Richland County voters ran into a host of different problems during Tuesday’s state primary.
On Wednesday, county leaders called for reforms from the Richland County Voter Registration and Elections Board. Additionally, South Carolina Election Commission officials released a statement saying that the commission was disappointed with Richland County’s conduct during Tuesday’s primaries and announced they will be stepping in to help with runoff elections on June 23.
Richland County leaders said the elections board failed their voters Tuesday.
“This is my worst nightmare coming true. It is unacceptable,” said Representative Beth Bernstein (D - District 78) who is also a Richland County Delegation Member. “The basis of our democracy is the right to vote and the elections board just trampled on that right for the Richland County voters. I’m terribly upset and angry.”
Rep. Bernstein, who has served on the Richland County Legislative Delegation for eight years, said the county faced widespread problems.
“To the lines being way too long to the difficulty getting the correct ballot, it’s just an unacceptable process,” Rep. Bernstein said.
She said the root of the issues is that Richland County doesn’t have a permanent elections director and hasn’t for more than a year.
“It’s something that I have tried to impart on my colleagues, the importance of having a qualified and capable board and someone who can elect an elections director,” Rep. Bernstein said.
The Richland County Legislative Delegation nominates members and then the governor appoints them to the Richland County Election Board. The board members have the responsibility of hiring and overseeing the director of the Richland County Voter Registration and Elections Commission.
Rep. Bernstein said the Richland County Board of Elections plans to appoint a new director by July 1, but she added the county needs assistance for the upcoming runoff elections.
“State elections needs to come and help supervise the upcoming elections, especially since we don’t have a full-time hired elections director,” Rep. Bernstein said.
S.C. Election Commission officials said in a statement this afternoon they are preparing to help Richland County for a smooth primary runoff on June 23. It will include working on poll manager training, voting equipment testing, and election day operations. Bernstein said this isn’t the first time the commission has been called in to help with election problems in the county.
“Since I have been elected, we have not had one smooth election,” she said. “We have had seven directors in seven years and that’s unacceptable.”
State Election Commission officials said in a statement they strongly encouraging the hiring of a permanent director. WIS reached out to Richland County Election Board Interim Director Terry Graham to talk about why things didn’t go smoothly, but he isn’t available to speak today.
S.C. Election Commission officials said many precincts in Richland County had to be consolidated or moved due to shortages in poll managers and workers.