Richland County election investigation: not enough voting machines used

Published: Nov. 30, 2012 at 2:59 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 10, 2012 at 2:59 AM EST
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voters wait in line for several hours on Election Day
voters wait in line for several hours on Election Day

RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - An attorney investigating problems at Richland County polling sites on election day confirmed Thursday election officials did not deploy enough voting machines.

Steve Hamm is reviewing the events leading up to Richland County's bungled November 6th election.

After a hearing with the Richland County Elections and Voter Registration Board Thursday, Hamm said the county had 627 machines, plus possibly one more, that were sent to the county's 124 precincts on November 6th.

During a hearing Monday Richland County Election Board Chair, Liz Crum, said the county has a total of 970 machines and that 45 were not working on Election Day.  That would mean up to 298 machines that could have been available sat unused in a warehouse.

When questioned about the lack of machines at precincts on Election night, board director Lillian McBride told WIS the county had enough machines to service voters.

However  Hamm said Thursday "There has been an ongoing recognition, since my involvement, by the staff that we didn't have enough machines out.  That is not a topic of disagreement."  Hamm said he's still working to figure out why they didn't put out enough machines.

Hamm said there are reports of machine battery failures in other counties, though it's not clear whether those were as severe as they were in Richland.

Some Richland County voters waited as long as five hours to cast ballots on Election Day, prompting the investigation.

Attorneys also discussed who has the authority to fire the board's executive director.  Attorneys say the language of the law was ambiguous.

An opinion from the state Attorney General's office said the board has the authority, and after meeting in closed session with their attorney, the board accepted that power.

McBride witnessed the vote but made no comment.

She's been under heavy fire for more than three weeks, with some of her harshest critics even accusing her of deliberately sabotaging the vote.

Hamm said he has mountains of data to look through  before he compiles a preliminary review of the election. Hamm said he expects to present the report to the elections board by Wednesday so he can present his findings to the Richland County Legislative Delegation when it meets Thursday.

On Monday, the board will hear disputes of the outcomes of three county elections.  One of the protests involves the transportation sales tax.  Two other disputes include two County Council Races.

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