‘Mass exodus’ of election officials amid unanswered questions

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Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 9:35 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 24, 2022 at 1:15 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Three members of the Richland County Elections Office have announced their permanent departure as of Tuesday, August 23.

The final resignation was testified during a legislative delegation meeting with the Richland Board of Voter Registration and Elections.

Rep. Leon Howard, chairman of the delegation, ordered Tuesday’s meeting in response to unanswered questions regarding pay delay for poll workers who serviced the primary and runoff elections in June.

“This [pay delay] is unacceptable... and all we’ve received are unacceptable excuses,” said Howard in his office.

Tuesday’s assembly came in the wake of Director Alexandria Stephens’s resignation from the elections office, effective Friday, Aug. 26. Her departure was announced without reason and joined by precinct coordinator Lakesha Diggs.

“We dropped the ball... I take full responsibility for anything that’s happened,” said Deputy turned Interim Director Terry Graham.

Rep. Beth Bernstein calls the increase in resignations a "mass exodus."
Rep. Beth Bernstein calls the increase in resignations a "mass exodus."(Andrew Fancher)

Graham believes an ‘unfortunate error’ resulted in the two-month delay in payment for Richland County poll workers. After attesting to negligence, he announced his resignation to the same delegation that appointed him.

“In what is essentially the eve of the [midterm] election, we have the three highest positions in leadership basically offering their resignation... I am alarmed,” said Rep. Ivory Thigpen on Tuesday.

Graham’s effective resignation date was moved from November 5 to January 1 upon the meeting entering the executive session after 11 a.m.

In response, the delegation has pledged to support Graham in his efforts to recruit poll workers, secure polling locations and ensure timely compensation moving forward. Howard says a well-supported elections office will produce a successful voter experience in November.

In regards to delayed payment:

“Everyone should be paid by Friday. And I’m taking it upon myself to say that anyone who has not been paid by Friday. Call my office at 803-734-3046,” concluded Howard.

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