UPDATED: LexCo precincts in; RichCo’s on their way

ccope@thestate.comNovember 5, 2013 

UPDATED: All precincts have been delivered in Lexington County, and the counting is under way.

In Richland County, most are in, but a few are outstanding.

Richland County elections director Howard Jackson, in his half-dozen updates throughout the day, reported that Tuesday’s election was running smoothly.

Some city of Columbia precincts had steady voter turnout, but in the more rural areas, it was low, Jackson said as polls closed.

Scattered, isolated issues popped up here and there.

At noon, Howard rehashed a laptop issue that was causing a 15-minute or so delay at Woodlands Park precinct.

The first reading for Richland County Council to decide on having more laptops for the Richland County Commission at it's meeting Tuesday evening, Jackson said.

“Hopefully by January 1, 2014, we will have at least two laptops for each precinct,” Jackson said. Some larger precincts may have more, he said.

While the Richland County Repbulican Party circulated an email about a few problems at some polls, Jackson said none of those issues had been reported to him. The memo, writen by Eaddy Roe Willard, did not cite the precincts where the alleged problems ocurred.

In a 10 a.m. press conference, Jackson addressed the laptop issue that caused longer wait lines at polls like Woodlands Park.

He said they addressed the issue with Richland County Council by asking for additional laptops as of Jan. 1, 2014 to prevent situations like Woodlands Park from occurring in the future.

“The issue is, we have two elections today at that precinct,” Jackson said. “Voters have to be processed in both elections,” which is what was slowing the process down, he said.

The laptop was processing voters for the library referendum and the City of Columbia municipal elections were being processed by the paper voter registration lists that have been used in the past, Jackson said.

The wait time at Woodlands Park was about 5 to 10 minutes, Jackson said.

“To us that is not a significant wait time, however we realize that any wait that the voter has on election day is probably too long,” Jackson said.

Columbia Councilwoman Leona Plaugh visited the Woodlands Park poll Tuesday morning, before Jackson’s briefing.

"I saw voters leaving because they couldn't wait a half hour to vote," said Plaugh, who is running for re-election against Todd Walter in District 3.

A request was made for an additional laptop to help poll workers do the analysis, Plaugh said.

In his briefing, Jackson said there was no need to add an additional laptop Tuesday.

Plaugh said when she was at the Brennan polling place earlier Tuesday, the only criteria that needed to be determined was which district the city residents were in, and that made for much shorter lines.

But the 15-minute wait at Woodlands Park was nothing compared to the three hours John Skeppstrom spent in line in November’s election. He said last year the problem was lack of working machines.

At the Hand Middle School polling place, Sue Ureda voted around 7:15 a.m. before heading to work.

She said this year was quicker than last November, when some waited for hours. However, Ureda said she only waited about 30 minutes last year.

Just after 8:30 a.m. at Sanders Middle School – where voters waited three and four hours to cast a ballot in November – there were no waits. Fewer than 100 votes had been cast so far at the Keenan precinct, where voters in November waited three and four hours to cast ballots. The precinct includes city and county voters.

Columbia voters are deciding Tuesday on who will lead the city. Steve Benjamin, who is completing his first term, is being challenged by Councilman Moe Baddourah, who represents the city’s District 3 on council. Three council seats also are on the ballot.

Also on Tuesday’s ballot, the Richland County library is asking county voters for permission to borrow $59 million for systemwide improvements. Each facility but Eastover, updated earlier this year, would get meeting space, and new libraries would be built in Ballentine and Northeast Richland County. The cost to taxpayers if approved? For the owner of $100,000 home, $12 to $14 a year.

In Blythewood, three council seats – one for two years, filling an unexpired term, and the other two for four-year terms – are on the ballot. Voters in Arcadia Lakes will elect a new mayor, with the incumbent retiring. Two council seats also are on the ballot.

And in neighboring Lexington County, there are contests for 18 of 34 municipal posts, with most of the remaining candidates automatically elected, barring an unlikely surge of write-in candidates.

Voters in Batesburg-Leesville, Chapin, Lexington, Pine Ridge, Springdale, Swansea and West Columbia will decide contests for mayor and councils as well as settle a handful of local referendum measures. A few neighborhoods in the Harbison area also will vote in Columbia contests.

Polls close at 7 p.m.


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