State rep. pushing for changes in county elections commission

Published: Feb. 26, 2014 at 4:04 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 8, 2014 at 4:04 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Howard Jackson, who was voted out as Richland County elections director, made a lot of accusations about the Richland County Elections Board.

"There were a number of charges made here that I am not in a position to respond to. I think they will require an examination by law enforcement," said Rep. Joseph Neal, chairman of the Richland County Legislative Delegation. The delegation appoints board members.

"I think the board, from what they've said to me, had some concerns," said Neal. "There were differences of opinion, there were differences of approach. All of which I thought could be worked out."

Neal knew about Monday's meeting, but says he had no idea any vote would take place.

"I was surprised it reached the point of termination," said Neal. "I would have preferred that not happen."

Last December, Richland County voter Bob Liming lodged a formal complaint with Jackson. Liming asked why more than 1,100 absentee votes were not counted in the November 2013 election. He still doesn't feel he has that answer.

"Why were they not counted? Somebody was responsible," said Liming. "I still want to know what that person was or persons."

Jackson claims he was told to cover for Lillian McBride, deputy director of voter registration and absentee services, in November and take the blame for the uncounted ballots.

We tried to talk with McBride Tuesday, but were told she was unavailable.

Liming wants something to change.

"This has been festering for years, no matter which side of the issue you take. We have a problem and every elected official has an obligation to every elected voter in this county. Now do something about it. Put their heads together, clean up the mess for whatever reason it has to be fixed. There's no excuse any longer. Maybe the Justice Department needs to come in here," said Liming.

Neal says the delegation wants a change, too. There is state-level legislation in the works that would restructure and reform the county election commission.

"In our case, in Richland County, it would probably be for the better to make some changes and to turn that over to the State Elections Commission and be done with it," said Neal.

Neal plans to talk with board members to find out why they decided to vote to fire Jackson.

Jackson also claims his decision to fire Deputy Director Garry Baum was met with resistance.

Baum said the county managed two flawless elections before Jackson became director. Baum also said he had no idea Jackson was going to fire him until the day it happened.

Baum said he feels he was capable of doing his job well, but did acknowledge there were aspects of his job he didn't know fully, including preparation of election machines.

Jackson said some voting machines had been unplugged so they weren't fully charged. Baum said he knows nothing about that.

The board will meet Wednesday for a special session that will happen in Richland County Council chambers. That meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m., but we're told this will be an executive session meeting.

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