Richland election mess

Richland County elections chair: McBride should step down

Then Crum resigns after the board takes no action against McBride

cleblanc@thestate.comDecember 17, 2012 

— The chairwoman of Richland County’s elections board said Monday that elections director Lillian McBride should step down, and then the chairwoman resigned after the board took no disciplinary action against McBride.

Chairwoman Liz Crum said she has lost confidence in McBride, whom Crum characterized as a longtime friend.

“After extreme soul-searching ... I no longer have confidence in Ms. McBride’s ability to lead the office,” said Crum, whose worked with McBride since 1998 when McBride headed the county’s voter registration office.

Crum, an attorney, said that restoring voter trust in the combined Elections & Voter Registration Office would require a new director.

She announced her views following a two-hour, closed-door session of the five-member board that oversees McBride’s office. The private discussion was to get legal advice and consider a personnel matter.

Afterward, the board returned to public session, and Crum announced it had taken no action. Then, speaking as an individual member, not for the board, Crum made her announcements.

No one on the board uttered a word after Crum spoke, including recognizing her 12 years of service. The other four members left the meeting room at the county administration building without speaking to assembled reporters.

Her resignation would leave board vice chairman, Allen Dowdy, as the new chairman.

Crum initially resigned on the day before voters went to the polls Nov. 6. Her resignation would have kept her on the board until mid March when Crum’s latest four-year term expires. She said at the time that the board needed new blood.

Monday, Crum said her latest resignation will be effective today. She declined to release the resignation letter until it is delivered today to the county’s legislative delegation, which selects board members.

She also declined to discuss what took place in the closed-door session.

That private session followed an updated report on the status of an ongoing inquiry of the election fiasco.

Attorney Steve Hamm said the focus of the rest of his inquiry, requested by the board, will be on troubles with the internal power supply unit in voting machines.

Hamm said he is finding that power supply unit failures caused more problems with machines than batteries or flashcards. Flashcards are computer cartridges located in the backs of machines where votes are stored.

“How significant that (power supply unit) issue is, needs to be determined,” he said, adding that his final report will be ready in early January.

All those difficulties contributed to long lines that left voters waiting for up to seven hours and drove uncounted numbers to give up without exercising their constitutional right.

Hamm stuck to his initial assessment on Dec. 6 that a shortage of machines was the core of Election Day headaches that outraged many voters, prompted calls for McBride to be fired and triggered lawsuits.

Hamm also is seeking to compare Richland County’s problems with those in other counties by analyzing data from the State Election Commission. The preliminary data require further study before he can arrive at conclusions, he said.

He repeated Monday his earlier conclusion that McBride and her office failed to provide the number of additional machines needed for the 17,700 new voters her office registered this year.

If McBride had calculated the number as required by state law – one for every 250 registered voters – Richland County’s 958 machines would not have been enough, Hamm said. Instead, more than 100 machines were left in the county’s storage warehouse, 45 of which were broken, he has said.

That Dec. 6 report also faulted the board for failing to properly supervise McBride’s decisions.

Before Hamm delivered his report Monday, the board unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the legislative delegation:

•  To push for a statewide early voting law to minimized long lines

•  To support a law that would allow counties of 100,000 people or more to open satellite locations

•  To ask the other 45 county election boards to lobby their delegations for the same laws.

Liz Crum's letter of resignation

Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.

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