SC House votes to move elections to secretary of state

01/24/2013 12:00 AM

01/24/2013 12:12 AM

The S.C. secretary of state again would run state elections if a state House bill becomes law.

The bill would transfer election responsibilities from the S.C. Election Commission to the secretary of state. It also would establish a bipartisan board of canvassers to hear election appeals. The board would have two Democrats and two Republicans. The secretary of state, now Republican Mark Hammond, would vote in cases of a tie.

A House subcommittee sent the bill Wednesday to the House Judiciary Committee.

The bill is one of several aimed at improving oversight of the election process following last year’s election debacle.

The bill’s sponsors include state Reps. Kirkman Finlay and Nathan Ballentine, both Richland Republicans.

The chiefs of the two affected state agencies disagreed Wednesday on whether the transfer of power is a good idea.

Hammond, R-Spartanburg, said moving responsibility for elections to the office of an elected official would provide greater accountability to citizens. Hammond said he would welcome running elections, adding many states already assign elections to the secretary of state.

But Marci Andino, the Election Commission’s executive director, said the move would be a “step backward,” exposing the state’s nonpartisan election process to political influence.

The secretary of state ran elections until 1968, when lawmakers made it an independent agency governed by a commission appointed by the governor, Andino said.

Also, some lawmakers now want the governor to appoint the secretary of state, who now runs for the office.

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