Election ‘uneventful,’ Richland elections director says; city watchers agree

ccope@thestate.comDecember 3, 2013 

  • BY THE NUMBERS Some examples of how precincts voted

    Ward 8 — Benedict College: 68 no, 12 yes; 3,394 registered voters

    Ward 14 — Sims Park (part of Shandon): 271 no, 169 yes; 1,546 registered voters

    Ward 33 — MLK Park: 80 yes, 67 no; 1,127 registered voters

    Greenview: 214 yes, 115 no; 1,859 registered voters

    Pennington (near Woodhill Mall): 412 no, 165 yes; 2662 registered voters

The members of Columbia’s Municipal Election Commission watched the vote results at the Richland County elections headquarters Tuesday night and received copies of a breakdown of the votes by precincts.

Chairman Byron Gipson said Tuesday evening that it looked like the process went smoothly.

“The new protections that have been put in place have given us the assurances we want and that the citizens of Columbia demand,” said Gipson, who was joined by fellow commissioners Jay Bender and Susan Kuo.

A new step to make sure no ballots missed being counted began immediately after the strong-mayor results came into play Tuesday night, said Richland County Elections Director Howard Jackson.

That step — a precertification audit — is part of the checks and balances process that Jackson said is mandatory from now on, to ensure ballots do not go missing. The process was put in place after 1,114 absentee ballots went missing in the Nov. 5 election in which voters decided on a county library referendum and mayor and City Council seats.

Jackson predicted Richland County’s office would be done with the precertification audit and have it transmitted to the S.C. Election Commission around noon on Wednesday for verification.

Turnout for the strong-mayor referendum was steady Tuesday, but lower than the Nov. 5 vote (21 percent), Jackson said.

And it was higher than many regular city elections, as 15.99 percent of voters showed up at the polls.

That was more than Bender had anticipated.

“I guess I was more pessimistic than the registered voters,” Bender said.

But he still said turnout was “remarkably low” for an important question.

Earlier in the day, Jackson visited the Greenview precinct after receiving a complaint about voter intimidation by poll watchers who were standing outside.

Jackson said he didn’t see or hear anything that amounted to intimidation. But he reminded three people standing outside of the distance they needed to keep between themselves and the voting booths. He also told them the rules about what they are allowed to say to voters. In other words, they can say “hello” but nothing about how people should vote, Jackson said.

Jackson said there had been few voting problems or complaints. “It’s relatively uneventful, which is what we like,” he said.

Reporter Noelle Phillips contributed.

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