Richland County election officials prepare for early voting, say election will be efficient & secure
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - With early voting for the midterms set to start on Monday, Richland County election officials say they are confident that this will be an efficient and secure election, free of some of the issues voters have encountered in recent years.
Richland County Interim Elections Director Terry Graham took over for Alexandria Stephens, who resigned in August.
Graham had said previously that he would be leaving the elections office after the November election but told WIS on Friday that he now plans to stay on in some capacity as the search for a new director continues.
Graham said he believes the Richland County elections office is more prepared for this election than any of the ones he has been part of since 2018.
“I have a high level of confidence in this election,” he said.
While Graham acknowledges that there could be some minor hiccups, he is confident that they have worked through some of the bugs and problems that have persisted for more than a decade.
“Just making sure that the voter can regain confidence in the staff that’s at Richland County Voter Registration Office,” he said.
Some voters remain skeptical.
“You’re always hopeful to some degree, although the last really 10 years made me less hopeful overall just because of the fact that these things don’t go away, that they’re slow, they’re caught in the political process,” Roland Irish, a Richland County voter, said.
In 2010, more than a thousand ballots were not properly counted and were not included in the board-certified vote count.
In 2012, some voters said they waited up to 6 hours in line to vote.
The county lost more than a thousand votes again in 2018, which led the governor to take action.
In 2019, Gov. Henry McMaster removed everyone from the Richland County elections board.
In 2020, lines stretched into the night and some voters said they waited more than three hours to cast their ballots.
Last year, technical issues with electronic poll books led to disruptions at the polls.
In June’s primaries, 57 emergency ballots were placed in the wrong bag by poll workers, which delayed a vote certification hearing.
According to Graham, some of these past issues stemmed from a lack of poll workers.
For this election, he said the county has exceeded its target number of poll workers.
Currently, 1,262 poll workers have signed up, and Richland County election officials expect to have about 200 more on standby.
“We’re also still processing poll workers, and those poll workers that we are processing are poll workers that we will use for reserve just in case any of those poll workers that we already got assigned, those poll workers get sick or those poll workers change their mind and choose not to work,” he said.
Richland County also increased poll worker pay by $50 this election cycle, which means poll managers will now receive $185.
Some Richland County poll workers were not paid on time following the June primaries.
RELATED STORY: Poll workers report no payment from last month’s election
WIS asked Graham how he can provide assurances to Richland County voters that the election will go smoothly.
“I think the past problem was accountability,” he said. “Not only I’m holding myself accountable, but also holding the staff more accountable, making sure we’re doing everything according to our policies and procedures, making sure that we dot all our Is and cross all our Ts.”
Election officials are also in the process of checking voting machines and e-poll books and have encountered no issues on that front.
There are five early voting locations in Richland County, open from 8:30 A.M. to 6 P.M. from Oct. 24 through Nov. 5.
A valid ID is needed to vote early.
A full list of early voting locations in the Midlands is located here.
RELATED STORY: Early voting opens Monday for the SC 2022 General Election
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