The Richland County Voter Registration and Elections office underestimated by nearly $24,000 what it now says it will cost to hold a special election for Kelvin Washington’s vacated District 10 council seat.
On second reading of the budget for the special election, which is necessary after Gov. Nikki Haley unseated Washington for failure to file state income taxes for three years, council members balked at the updated request.
“We’ve had a calculation error of some type to the tune of $24,000, which is a 40 percent difference from the original amount asked for,” Councilman Bill Malinowski said. “This is supposedly coming from a department that knows what they’re doing.”
When originally presented to council members, the elections office estimated it would cost $62,751 to conduct a primary and, possibly, a runoff election in District 10. An updated spreadsheet provided to council on Monday, however, raised the price tag to $86,362.
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“There were, apparently, some calculation errors in the original spreadsheet that was provided,” said assistant county administrator Brandon Madden, who spoke on behalf of the elections office. “There were just a few errors and things that didn’t add up correctly. ... There was some additional information that they needed to include that was not included.”
That miscalculation did not sit well with the majority of council members.
“How do we know that’s not more pervasive in their overall budget?” Councilman Seth Rose said.
Related: Richland poll workers say they were overpaid for recent elections
In recent discussions, a number of council members questioned the responsibility of the office’s budgeting. The elections office and the majority of its Legislature-appointed board, however, defended their request, noting they were granted only about $1.2 million of their original request of more than $3 million at the beginning of the financial year in July.
Rather than sign off on the $86,362 request for the District 10 election, the majority of council voted Tuesday to approve the $62,571 that was originally presented to them until their questions are answered. Councilman Norman Jackson cast the sole dissenting vote.
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.