RICHLAND COUNTY, SC — Richland County’s elections office will get no extra money next year if County Council holds true to a preliminary and heated vote Thursday.
Councilman Seth Rose singled out the Office of Elections & Voter Registration to hold funding to this year’s level, $1.2 million. That removed $119,000 requested for voting machines and related equipment.
But Rose said the office should have “plenty of money to run smoothly” after getting a $400,000 boost last year, when local legislators set the budget and made the county merge historically separate elections and voter registration offices.
Councilman Norman Jackson said he didn’t want the county to get blamed if the office doesn’t have the equipment and personnel it needs for municipal elections in November. “If it’s needed, let’s give it to them,” he said.
“Where has it been said we need voting machines?” Councilman Damon Jeter asked.
Chairman Kelvin Washington chided his colleagues for what he called efforts to “browbeat” the office. “We’re sitting here, getting ready to hogtie an office that gets us elected,” he said.
The office – blamed for one of the worst election debacles in state history Nov. 6, with long lines and missing ballots that outraged voters – had requested a budget of nearly $1.8 million.
Administrator Tony McDonald recommended cutting most of the additional $600,000 but suggested earmarking the difference to be available at the request of a new elections director.
On a 6-5 vote, though, the council kept the office at its current budget. Voting with Rose were Joyce Dickerson, Damon Jeter, Greg Pearce, Torrey Rush and Bill Malinowski.
When Malinowski then said the council had provided the amount required by state legislators, Washington interjected, “And elections? Special elections? That’s not included in that.”
He continued, raising his voice: “Everything that happened in that (Nov. 6) election, they tried to remedy, and we just stifled that.”
“That’s not true,” Dickerson responded. “We need to go on record.” She suggested the council review the vote.
“So they can understand what they’ve done,” Jackson said.
“We know what we’ve done!” Dickerson replied.
The council has delayed its final vote on the budget to June 19.