Reaction was muted Thursday to the impending departure of former Richland County elections director Lillian McBride, but some welcomed the news.
“There are those who will feel like, ‘It’s about time,’” said Steve Hamm, a Columbia attorney who was hired to get to the bottom of the mismanagement of the November 2012 general election. “I spent a lot of time with Lillian McBride. She was very candid that they had made mistakes, which I confirmed. She did everything I asked her to do.”
Ultimately, Hamm found the missteps did not change the outcome of the election, including the controversial referendum to approve a 1-cent increase on the county’s sales tax to pay for transportation improvements.
“But I was very troubled by the problems I found,” he said, referring to hourslong lines caused largely by too few voting machines and poll workers – both of which are violations of state election laws.
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McBride became a lightning rod for voter anger. She made only one prepared public statement three weeks after the Election Day mess in which she deflected responsibility and did not answer pressing questions.
Betty Jones, who has been a poll worker and poll manager for more than 30 years, is happy McBride will be leaving the Elections & Voter Registration office by June 30.
“It’s mighty good news,” said Jones, who works at Ward 16 at Dreher High School on election days. “It was totally unnecessary, horrendous mismanagement and Lillian McBride was responsible. She had to know” that the election office was unprepared in November 2012.
Rusty DePass is a onetime state elections commissioner who was a party to suing the elections board. He took the high road Thursday.
“I wish her well. I have no interest in picking a fight,” he said. Still, DePass added, “I’m not aware of her ever coming clean about who was responsible.”
Hamm said McBride named to him the person she blamed publicly — without providing a name — for reducing the number of voting machines. But Hamm did not then and would not on Thursday identify that person, citing attorney-client protections.
McBride declined to be interviewed about her departure, which is based on the expiration of a state employment law that allows her to retire from her $77,584 position as deputy director. She has not set a specific date to leave.
Keller Barron, another longtime election activist and poll worker, recalls McBride as being personable, and someone who “seemed to know what was going on” in handling elections.
To folks like Jones, personality isn’t enough.
“I understand that she’s personally popular,” Jones said, “but that does not mean she can run elections. I never could understand why she was kept on.”