Richland SC elections director must go, legislators say

Senate’s Courson and House’s Ballentinesay McBride should quit or be removedSenate’s Courson and House’s Ballentinesay McBride should quit or be removed

abeam@thestate.com; cleblanc@thestate.comDecember 1, 2012 

Two Republican Richland County lawmakers, including the leader of the state Senate, on Friday called for embattled county elections director Lillian McBride to lose her job.

A Democratic lawmaker came close to calling for McBride to quit, saying it will be “very difficult” for McBride to hold on to her $89,124-a-year position.

The public statements increase the pressure on McBride to quit. McBride is the target of critics angered by her supervision of the state’s most-botched Nov. 6 election.

A month after that election, that ire is not easing.

State Sen. John Courson, R-Richland, the president pro tempore of the Senate, said McBride needs to resign. State Rep. Nathan Ballentine, R-Richland, said it is “time to replace” her.

While not going that far, state Rep. Joe McEachern, D-Columbia, said, “Let me put it this way, I think it would be very difficult to go forward with Ms. McBride in that position."

Voters and lawmakers have criticized McBride, director of the Richland County Board of Elections & Voter Registration, for her office’s handling of the general election, a balloting mess that prompted lawsuits, intervention by a circuit court and the state’s highest court, and triggered protests.

Some Richland County voters had to wait in line for up to seven hours to vote and, in some cases, cast their ballots well past midnight. Other voters, faced with massive lines, left polling places in frustration without casting ballots.

It took Richland County elections officials more than a week to certify election results. In one race, Richland County Council District 9, officials initially ruled Republican incumbent Val Hutchinson had won only to discover later she had lost to Democratic challenger Julie-Ann Dixon.

“If the other members of the Richland delegation and the county election board listen to our citizens, I believe they will come to the same conclusion” that McBride must be replaced, Ballentine said in a news release Friday.

Ballentine was the first member of Richland County’s 15-member legislative delegation to publicly call for McBride’s dismissal. Courson and McEachern’s comments followed Friday.

It is unclear who has the authority to fire McBride: the county legislative delegation, which hired her, or the election board. A state attorney general’s opinion earlier this week concluded a court likely would say that power rests with the county election board. Election board members voted Thursday to accept that opinion.

Ballentine also suggested other changes he said would help in future elections.

“Personnel changes are simply not enough, however, and I believe my colleagues and I should consider legislation that will directly hold local election commissions more accountable,” Ballentine said. “Additionally, I think we need to reduce the size of each precinct in our county. As a state official, I will work on legislation to do just that.”

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