After Richland Co. election debacle, General Assembly votes to add 25 precincts

The voting line at Dutch Fork M.S. on November 6, 2012. (Source: Steve Jones via Send it to 10)
The voting line at Dutch Fork M.S. on November 6, 2012. (Source: Steve Jones via Send it to 10)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The South Carolina General Assembly this week took steps to alleviate long lines at the polls in Richland County following the bungled 2012 general election that left voters standing in line for hours.

The legislature approved creating 25 new precincts in varying locations around the county. The plan still needs approval from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The issue was raised after it was determined several polling locations in November had more than the recommended state maximum of 2,500 registered voters per precinct. So legislators set out to redistribute Richland County's 246,164 registered voters.

Some locations will simply be split into two or three precincts within the same location while others will require a new location altogether.

The changes will be made primarily in the northeast, northwest, and southeast areas of Richland County. There are no changes among the downtown wards.

At least one commission member on Friday said it's something the legislative delegation should have taken care of sooner.

"It was required by law anyway, they just hadn't done it so, so now they're stepping up to their job because they were supposed to do that ahead of time because those precincts were too large," said Adell Adams.

Some voters waited up to seven hours to cast a ballot. Others were not able to vote at all.

The change will still be costly for the county.

"We know it's in the range of $10,000 to put together the complete package for voting machines and auxiliary materials, but that too will be worked out by the staff," said Acting Elections Director Dr. Jasper Salmond.

That's per precinct.  It takes a minimum of three staffers at a cost of $420 to man each new precinct, plus the cost to rent the location.

"We have existing machines to cover up to a point, the precincts we have but we still need additional voting machines, which we're working on, you'll be hearing more about later," said Salmond.

The district lines won't change, so voters will still be voting for the same candidates, the change is where their ballots are cast.  There's a cost for that too.  Election officials say, they haven't decided yet if voters will get new registration card or just a post card informing them of their new polling location.

The changes would not take effect until January of 2014.

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