Elections board installs fellow board member as interim elections director

Published: Feb. 27, 2014 at 3:53 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 8, 2014 at 9:36 PM EST
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Samuel Selph talks to WIS after being named interim director.
Samuel Selph talks to WIS after being named interim director.

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The Richland County Board of Directors voted 4-1 Wednesday to install one of its own as the interim director.

Samuel Selph resigned from the board and immediately took over as director on an interim basis.

"I'm retired after 40 years in state government I'm only doing this because the board asked me to," Selph said. "I have no desire for this position on a permanent basis. None whatsoever, but I'll tell you this, when I leave this office in the next three or four months, it will not matter who sits in this office, it will not matter, anyone who sits in the office, should be able to run a smooth, fair and efficient election, anybody and that's the kind of process I want to put in place during the short time I'm going to be here."

Selph said he hopes the board would be open to more transparency and allow the community to ask them questions.

"I want meeting to be out in the community where people can ask us questions, I think if they get an opportunity to ask us questions, to see who we are and how we do our jobs, then they can get behind us," Selph said.

Ousted Richland County Elections Director Howard Jackson met with SLED investigators Wednesday. He called the meeting productive and said he will be talking with them again.

Jackson was at Wednesday's board meeting where more decisions were made about him, behind closed doors.

Jackson was supposed to be elections director until Friday, but things changed after a 20 minute executive session.

"I didn't want to be the story," Jackson said. "So I wanted to come get my stuff, and clear out of town."

Board chairman, Allen Dowdy, would not talk about what led to the decision to get rid of Jackson.

"I'm not in a position to talk about that, ok," said Dowdy.

When asked when he would be in a position to talk about it, he replied: "I can't. That depends upon how this moves through the investigation, but what we've done is merited 100 percent."

Jackson said Selph always wanted things to work out this way.

"He told me he had an agenda when he came here, so apparently his agenda was to get rid of me and install himself," said Jackson.

Selph said there have been serious issues with voting in Richland County but declined to say who was to blame for the problems.

"Something went wrong, obviously," Selph said. "Something went wrong in 2012, something went wrong in 2013. We want to make sure that never happens again. It never happened before. We don't want it to happen again."

Attorney Jim Carpenter addressed the board and said the board doesn't have the authority to hire and fire people, according to a ruling by a judge.

"He ruled that the law that established this board and dis-established the two previous boards was ruled unconstitutional," Carpenter said.

Carpenter, who represented the plaintiff in the case, said the Richland County Elections Office must return to functioning separately from its Voter Registration Office.

Selph acknowledged the ruling and mentioned legislation in the works to change things.

"There are a couple of bills that are floating around through the House and the Senate right now to correct these type of election commission, voter registration offices in the state," Selph said. "When those bills have been reconciled and the laws passed, then we will be guided about what to do."

The problem with the law creating Richland County's board was that it applied only to Richland County, according to the ruling.

The state constitution states you cannot have an act for a single county.

It also states you cannot have a special act when a general act is applicable.

According to the ruling, there should be two separate boards in Richland County. There should be the Board of Elections and the Board of Voter Registration.

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