Eight forums planned to boost Columbia voter education, turnout

cleblanc@thestate.comSeptember 9, 2013 

  • Voter forums The League of Women Voters of the Columbia Area announced Monday that it will hold a series of voter registration and voter education forums across the city between Wednesday and Oct. 2. Two forums are scheduled in each of Columbia’s four City Council districts. District 2

    When: Wednesday1

    Where: Cecil Tillis Training Center, 2111 Simpkins Lane

    Time: noon - 1 p.m.

    Where: Martin Luther King Park, 2300 Greene St.

    Time: 5:15 p.m. - 6:15 p.m.

    District 3

    When: Wed., Sept. 18

    Where: Sims Park, 3500 Duncan St.

    Time: noon - 1 p.m.

    Where: Woodlands Park, 6500 Olde Knight Parkway

    Time: 5:15 p.m. - 6:15 p.m.

    District 1

    When: Wed., Sept. 25

    Where: Greenview Park, 6700 David St.

    Time: noon - 1 p.m.

    Where: Chestnut Hill Plantation Clubhouse, 851 Lost Creek Drive.

    Time: 5:15 p.m. - 6:15 p.m.

    District 4

    When: Wed., Oct. 2

    Where: Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church, 1005 Asbury Drive.

    Time: noon - 1 p.m.

    Where: Heathwood Park, 800 Abelia Road.

    Time: 5:15 p.m. - 6:15 p.m.

    SOURCE: League of Women Voters of the Columbia Area

— The League of Women Voters is holding eight forums starting Wednesday across Columbia to increase voter turnout and educate voters about the capital city’s first fall election.

The forums are scheduled on four successive Wednesdays, and two will be held in each of Columbia’s four City Council districts, said Martha Roblee, president of the league’s Columbia Area chapter.

The non-partisan league also is seeking sites for two forums to explain state laws on the forms of municipal government in South Carolina, Roblee said just before an election kickoff event Monday outside City Hall. Locations that can accommodate large groups and the times of those forums have yet to be decided, she said.

The last day to register to vote in the Nov. 5 election is Oct. 5, said Erika Moore, Columbia’s clerk of City Council.

Newly appointed Richland County elections director Howard Jackson said the county will use all its 947 voting machines during the Nov. 5 election that will have a majority of City Council and a countywide library-spending referendum on the ballot.

Jackson also said that a private company last week serviced all the voting machines in preparation for his office’s first major test since the countywide fiasco last November on election day.

“Hopefully, in November, we shouldn’t have any issues with our machines,” Jackson said at the news conference. In November 2012 election, machines shortages combined with machine breakdowns and insufficient poll workers to create hours-long lines and some voter disenfranchisement.

The county election office, which is conducting the city race as well as the library referendum, plans to have a full complement of 1,400 poll workers, Jackson said, asking for volunteers.

This year, the county also plans to open three additional satellite offices to alleviate a crush of voters at the main office at 2020 Hampton Street.

Jackson said a satellite office at City Hall will be for absentee voting while the ones to open in Irmo and Northeast Richland will help voters with other matters such as changes of address. The locations of those satellite offices should be decided soon, he said.

The city and Jackson’s office are negotiating a reduction in the $191,000 price tag Jackson has submitted for running the Nov. 5 election. Moore said she has submitted a budget proposal to Jackson but has not received a response.

A majority of council – mayor, at-large seat and two district seats - is up for re-election. All of them have challengers.

Jackson also said he and his office on Thursday are holding the first of four regional countywide voter education/voter registration forums. Thursday’s session is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. in Irmo’s municipal building behind Town Hall, 7300 Woodrow St. The three other forums by the county elections office are to be held in the northeast, southeast and city center, Jackson said. But dates and times have not been settled.

Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.

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