Richland Countys election debacle was a system failure by top election officials and the board that oversees the office, according to a preliminary report released Thursday.
A series of unfortunate assumptions, is how attorney Steve Hamm summed up his findings 30 days after the meltdown widely considered among the states worst.
Hamm spread blame to elections director Lillian McBride, her staff and the Board of Elections & Voter Registration.
Asked afterward if she felt exhonerated by Hamms report, McBride said no but would not comment further. She has been taking the bulk of angry voters criticism for the debacle.
No one asked the basic fundamental questions, Hamm said: How many machines are being distributed to the countys 124 precincts and did that number account for some 17,000 new voters McBrides office registered just this year.
Hamm repeatedly said that McBride, her staff or the board failed to catch the problems.
Hamm, hired by the board to get to the bottom of the election mess, also disclosed in his interim report that 102 votes from the Spring Valley West precinct remain uncounted four weeks after Election Day. He said he learned of them Wednesday.
Hamm also corroborated that 27 votes cast in the Lincolnshire precinct have not been counted.
Acknowledging voter frustration, Hamm said a final tally will take as long as it takes.
Moments after submitting his report, the board went into executive session behind closed doors. Its unclear if board members will take any disciplinary action against McBride or members of her staff.
McBride declined to comment on Hamms findings.
Hamm also said he knows which part-time staffer mistakenly drew up a new list that greatly reduced the number of machines to be delivered to the polls.
But Hamm would not release a name, citing Richland Countys personnel rules.
He said, however, he does not believe that male staffers assertions that he had McBrides authorization to make the change.
Among the still unanswered questions:
• How many emergency machines were distributed and where did they go?
• How many votes remain uncounted?
READ IT: Initial and Limited Report on the Richland County Nov. 6, 2012 General Election