Richland County Senator Darrell Jackson says the legislative delegation will hold hearings about how the election was conducted “when the process is complete” — and that may be a little while. Thursday, media reports two bags of ballots showed up in a locked room, after the vote counting was complete Wednesday night.
The State Election Commission has to certify the votes by noon Friday. Then candidate protests must be fully resolved. A protest has been filed to the county on the penny sales tax outcome.
Jackson says, “We have been advised that it makes no sense to do it prior to that because won’t be able to hear the people we need to hear from speak freely as long as there are legal, pending matters.”
Richland County House Republican Nathan Ballentine says he hoped for hearings last week. Those were interrupted by a vote recount being challenged in State Supreme Court. “Now it could be into December and that’s very unfortunate.”
To many people are jumping to conclusions, says Ballentine. “We don’t know how this happened. It’s either inexperience, incompetence or worse. And until we can get our questions answered, we don’t know.”
Jackson says he also wants to know exactly what happened on election day. Voters suffered six-hour lines in some places, too few machines at large precincts and improperly charged machines. At Dutch Fork Middle School, there was one person checking in voters with more than 1,000 people standing in line.
An attorney who monitored polling that day suggests that poll workers may need better training in how to handle provisional ballots. “People were getting turned away and not being allowed to vote,” says Tiger Wells of Haynesworth, Sinkler, Boyd in Columbia. “In some of those cases, we were able to go in with the law in hand and educate some of the poll managers so that they did start allowing some of these folks to vote using provisional ballots.”
The hotly contested new penny tax on the ballot fueled public and media speculation that some of the election day pitfalls may have been placed in certain precincts.
Jackson says he feels sure of one thing: “I can assure the citizens of Richland County there was no conspiracy. We began looking into that the day after the election. All of this will come out when we have the hearing.”