Ballentine: Richland elections office must do better

May 24, 2013 


— In response to the incompetence the Richland County elections office showed in the days before, of and after the November election, I called for the director’s resignation. And realizing that personnel changes were not enough to protect the most important right we have, I also filed legislation to reduce precinct sizes, co-sponsored legislation to have South Carolina join more than 35 states that place the secretary of state in charge of elections and revisited the possibility of early voting.

Since November, the director resigned, the House approved my bill to reduce precinct sizes and also approved early voting. Unfortunately, for every step forward at the state level, the county elections office keeps taking steps backwards.

The county election commission hired the former director back in the position she previously held as voter registration director. While this change in duties can be viewed as a demotion, her continued presence inhibits the public’s ability to once again trust that office’s decision making.

To add insult to injury, the taxpayers are left with the tab on the legal bills from all this — not just for the former director but for the attorney hired to report on this mess. That final report still has not been issued and almost certainly will come to the same conclusions many of us already reached on that dreadful day in November.

A special panel was created to screen applicants for elections director, and we still do not know how many individuals applied for the job. When two of the panel’s three finalists withdrew their applications, I assumed the panel finally would have to open up the process. Instead, just seven days later, we learned through the media that the election commission met in private and gave the position to the only finalist who did not withdraw. While I certainly wish him well and will help him in any way I can, I have yet to learn what makes him more qualified than the unknown number of applicants for this critical position.

This mess has seen more mistakes, more lost time, more wasted tax dollars and more questionable decisions than could ever be imagined. Nothing from the elections office has given voters any confidence that they won’t have to endure another failed election. Our voters deserve better than this.

Rep. Nathan Ballentine


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