Richland Co. Council expected to OK $730,000 in external grant funds for elections commission

Richland Co. Council expected to OK $730,000 in external grant funds for elections commission

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Tuesday night, the Richland County Voter Registration and Elections office is expected to get some help.

County officials expect the Richland County Council to approve a grant agreement that will result in the office receiving $730,000 in grant funds.

The money is coming from the non-profit Center for Tech and Civic Life, whose backers include Facebook, Google, and the Knight Foundation.

County documents show the money will be spent in the following manner.

  • $450,000 for absentee balloting equipment
  • $175,000 for in-person voting at polling places on election day
  • $5,000 for secure dropboxes
  • $100,000 for advertising to promote absentee voting

Richland County Voter Registration and Elections Director Alexandria Stephens applied for the grant after being contacted by the non-profit over the summer. She said the financial resources will help prepare the county for the estimated 60,000 absentee-by-mail votes that will be cast in the November election.

As of Sept. 15, she said her office has already received 47,000 applications.

County documents show the money is expected to purchase:

  • 1 ballot counting machine for absentee ballots
  • 1 mail sorting machine for absentee ballots (Stephens said it can verify 15-25,000 signatures in an hour, potentially saving days in work)
  • Outreach materials to inform the public on absentee voting
  • 10 secure dropboxes
  • 30 voting machines for in-person voting
  • Miscellaneous polling place supplies (tape, signage, cords, clipboards)

Richland County polling places saw long lines in the June primary in part due to a lack of poll workers.

Stephens started her role in the aftermath of that vote.

“One of my main goals was to restore the faith of the voters in Richland County, and not only the voters, but the community as a whole,” she said.

Stephens said her office is aiming to have at least 1,800 workers on election day. She said currently, 1,300 workers are returning and another 1,000 have been signed up (and applications are still coming in).

“The perfect election day of course is to get through it without any hiccups, no lines, everybody gets in and out with no issues,” she said.

“However, with it being a presidential, there will be lines. Our goal is to move the line as quickly as possible.”

Stephens encouraged the county residents to get neighbors involved in the elections process.

She also said if voters plan to vote absentee, apply for the absentee ballot now. Ballots can be mailed back or dropped off at the office in-person.

You can read more about the elections process on the office website and at the state election commission website.

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