Garrick email to constituents, letter to legislative delegation

November 19, 2012 

SC Rep. Mia Butler Garrick (D-Richland County) sent this email to constituents Nov. 16, including with it a letter she wrote Nov. 14 to the Richland County Legislative Delegation about the serious problems in the county's polling place for the Nov. 6 election.

Friends,

I would like to take a moment to personally apologize for the reckless and unconscionable conditions so many of you encountered at Richland County polls on Election Day.

Like you, I'm livid about the senseless waits, poor preparation and other infractions that only seem to get more egregious with each passing day.

Just last evening, we learned that more uncounted ballots are still being "discovered" by the Richland County Election Commission and like you, I want answers.

You deserve accountability, transparency and every assurance that your fundamental right to vote will never again be compromised. Thank you for your phone calls and emails. I hear you. I'm with you. And I won't let up until your confidence in the integrity of Richland County's electoral process is restored.

Take a look at my letter to our legislative delegation and let's continue to fight for what's right, together...

[Garrick's letter follows:]

MEMORANDUM

To: Members & Colleagues of the Richland County Legislative Delegation

From: Rep. Mia Butler Garrick, House District 79

Date: November 14, 2012

Re: November 6th Election

I’m confident that our legislative delegation will do the right thing and host a public hearing concerning the Election Day debacle in Richland County. But in the meantime, let me be clear about my position. Never before have I been so dismayed and disgusted, as I watched hundreds of moms and dads stand outside for hours in the freezing cold, trying to warm their babies and toddlers in their arms. My heart broke as elderly grandmothers and grandfathers senselessly tried to brave the cold so that they too, could exercise the right that so many of them fought for us to have.

As I entered my own Lake Carolina precinct, I greeted Nadia Holbert as she exited the building, devastated…distraught…and disenfranchised. Despite the fact that she arrived before the polls opened and patiently waited over 2 hours in line, Nadia and numerous other voters watched helplessly as others (who arrived after she did) were ushered to the front of the line, simply because the first letter of their last names fell between M and Z.

Like many other Richland County voters on Tuesday, Nadia had to choose work over the 3-6 hour wait, which forced her to forfeit a right that she had proudly exercised for so many years. And if being disenfranchised weren’t devastating enough, her questions and concerns were met with rude, cynical and flippant remarks from the poll manager who was brazen enough to confront voters (who questioned her), while defending an obsolete and ineffective system because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

At Ridge View High School, Karren Hill Gordon and Myra Cunningham may not even have known each other, but both suffered the same fate…a grueling 4 hour wait, most of which was spent standing outside in the cold. Parking was a nightmare as cars lined both sides of Hardscrabble Road, forcing voters to run across a busy street or hike from Rice Creek and beyond. Curbside voting didn’t seem to be an option as many voters insist that they never saw one poll worker leave the comfort of the heated buildings to check on or assist disabled and elderly voters.

At Summit Parkway Middle School, two precincts (Parkway 1 & 2) represented the worst of the worst with regard to organization, preparation logistics and execution. The line for each precinct was wrapped around the building from the front as well as the back, and there were no signs or poll workers on hand to help voters distinguish between the two.

From six machines that were originally deployed to the three that were working at Summit Parkway…the law and common sense indicated that neither was enough for over 5,000 registered voters. South Carolina law requires one machine for every 250 voters, so the bottom line is…the Director must accept responsibility and accountability for the senseless injustices that occurred on Tuesday, and as the legislative delegation that appointed her to the position for which she was obviously not prepared, so must we.

The countless number of phone calls and emails that I continue to receive from voters who live in and around House District 79, affirm that the Richland County Election Commission’s preparation and performance on Tuesday, November 6, were grossly inadequate and at the very least, failed to comply with the letter and spirit of SC law. And while our delegation bears some culpability for having combined the registration and election offices, and having appointed a Director to organize and effectively execute both processes, I am unaware of any indication by Director McBride, the Commissioners or others that this approach was not feasible, practical or efficient.

This colossal failure is likely to have contributed to the disenfranchisement of hundreds (perhaps thousands) of Richland County voters. And yet, our delegation seems to have taken a stronger collective stance against the anticipated impact of the new Voter ID law, than the actual impact of our failure to comply with this one.

Not holding the Richland County Elections Director, Commissioners and ourselves accountable for this debacle is not a viable option. The public has every right to demand transparency and accountability. And we have an undeniable responsibility to deliver. Therefore, I strongly encourage our Richland County Legislative Delegation to:

1. Apologize formally, unequivocally and publicly to all Richland County voters.

2. Acknowledge and accept responsibility for appointing the Director of the Richland County Election Commission and hold her accountable for the procedural, logistical and preparatory failures that caused Tuesday’s debacle.

3. Take swift and immediate action to restore confidence and integrity to the process for all Richland County voters.

4. Give Richland County residents notice of our next meeting, as well as an opportunity to be heard. Voter input, as well as open communication and dialogue are critical if we genuinely want to be transparent, accountable and committed to the process of reforming Richland County’s electoral system.

I am confident that each of us will fight to ensure that every Richland County voter matters and every vote counts. Even one disenfranchised voter is one too many.

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