Politics & Government

June 23, 2014

Selph: 'It's been a long, slow day'

Richland County's runoff election went off with "very few hiccups," interim elections director Samuel Selph said early Tuesday evening.

Richland County's runoff election went off with "very few hiccups," interim elections director Samuel Selph said early Tuesday evening.

Most problems were resolved by mid-morning, Selph said, and included such things as expired passwords on laptops with voter lists.

Selph described turnout as "very light."

"It's been a long, slow day," Selph said.

Asked whether he thinks the county is ready to handle November's general election, when thousands of voters are expected, Selph said, "I like where we are in terms of preparation -- we have something to build on."

Selph said county election officials need to "beef up" training for poll workers in preparation for fall balloting.

- Tim Flach

Hand Middle School, Columbia: 4:30 p.m.
Richland County voting officials said they hoped to see more than 10 percent voter turnout, but some precincts will be lucky to hit that mark. 
Voting started slow and stayed slow all day at Hand Middle School in Shandon, where just over 100 people had voted as of 4:30 p.m. That's about a quarter of the total turnout the polling place saw on June 10 for the primary elections and less than 10 percent of voters in the precinct. 
Poll clerk Joseph Kopack said he didn't think it was the weather keeping folks away from the polls. 
"I think it's just no interest," he said. 
The story was much the same at Rosewood Elementary School in Columbia, where poll workers expected fewer than 300 out of more than 2,000 voters in the precinct to show up by the end of the day. 
All the voting equipment was operating smoothly at both polling places, poll workers said. 
Sarah Ellis
North Trenholm Baptist Church polling place - Forest Acres/Arcadia Lakes: noon
By lunchtime, only a fraction of the 968 voters at the North Trenholm Baptist Church precinct had cast ballots.
Tommy Mack, one of the poll managers, said 69 people had voted in person.
Carolyn Click
Westside Baptist Church polling place - West Columbia: 11:15 a.m.

The only problem at the Westside Baptist Church polling place in West Columbia was an inability to print the zero tape from voting machines showing that no ballots had been cast as of 7 a.m., poll workers said.

The printing problem still hadn't been fixed by 11 a.m., but it's a problem that does not affect voting, the workers said.

Some Richland County precincts had had the same problem earlier in the morning, interim elections director Samuel Selph said.

About 60 people had voted at Westside Baptist as of 11 a.m., on pace to match the voter turnout from the June 10 primary.

Sarah Ellis

Mt. Hebron precinct - West Columbia: 10:45 a.m.

Threats of rain and a move from their regular polling place might be a deterrent for some voters in the Mt. Hebron precinct in West Columbia, poll workers said around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

About 30 people had voted so far, and another 60 had voted in the Pineview precinct sharing the space with Mt. Hebron at Pineview Elementary School. Between the two precincts, just one person had voted in the Democratic primary runoff.

"Everybody needs to vote," said Pineview poll worker Cheri Smith.

The Pineview precinct turnout was "surprisingly" about the same as it had been for the June 10 primary, Smith said.

All six voting machines between the two precincts were functioning properly.

Sarah Ellis

Satchel Ford Elementary polling place - Forest Acres: 10 a.m.

The biggest challenge so far Tuesday at the Satchel Ford Elementary polling place was getting in the door.

Clerk Don Klos said workers were locked out when they arrived at 6:55 a.m. but managed to get in and set up on time, thanks in part to the experienced poll workers there.

About 61 people had turned out to the Forest Acres polling place by 10 a.m. The precinct has 1,300 registers voters, Klos said.

Dawn Kujawa

River Bluff High School polling place - Lexington: 10 a.m.

Voting equipment was working well and voter turnout was "steady but down" from the June 10 primary at the River Bluff High School polling place in Lexington, poll worker Jenna Wells said.

More than 50 people had voted at the precinct a little before 10 a.m.

Pat Jeffcoat was stationed outside the school thanking people for coming out to vote and encouraging them to support longtime Lexington County Councilman Bill Banning in the District 8 Republican runoff against Ned Tolar.

"He is an honorable man who has done a lot for all of Lexington County," she said. Specifically, Jeffcoat said, Banning has done a good job of encouraging businesses to come to the area, "and I think that's what we need in this economy."

Sarah Ellis

W.G. Sanders polling place: 10 a.m.

Eighteen people had turned out to the W.G. Sanders polling place by 9:35 a.m. Tuesday.

John Jones, working at the polls, said there are roughly 1,800 registered voters in the precinct, so the low turnout is disappointing.

Even the June 10 primary had a fair turnout, he said, with about 300 voters.

In November 2012 at Sanders, as at many Richland County polling places, some voters waited three-plus hours to cast a ballot, the result of too few working machines.

But Tuesday, Jones said, all machines were good and voting was going smoothly.

Dawn Kujawa

Providence Presbyterian Church - West Columbia: 9:20 a.m.

At Providence Presbyterian Church in West Columbia, Melissa Sprouse-Browne, 44, voted for change on the Lexington County Council. In the District 8 Republican runoff, she supports Ned Tolar over longtime councilman Bill Banning.

"I feel like he has a better grasp of what people in this area are looking for," said Sprouse-Browne, who has lived in West Columbia since 2005. In that time, she said, she's seen "nothing directly produced by (Banning's) efforts."

Around 40 people had voted at the precinct as of 9 a.m. Poll worker Sandra Dodd said she hoped to see 300 voters by day's end.

All three voting machines were functioning, though the touch screen on one machine was "being stubborn," Dodd said. But because of the light turnout, it was not slowing things down and was not a concern, poll workers said.

Nineteen-year-old David Thomas missed the June 10 primary election but voted in the Republican runoff Tuesday to have a say in the state superintendent of education race.

A sophomore at the University of South Carolina, Thomas said he supports Sally Atwater because he does not approve of her opponent Molly Spearman's stance against homeschooling. Thomas's sister is homeschooled, he said, and "we don't think (Spearman's) opinion is justified."

Sarah Ellis

Drew Wellness Center - Downtown Columbia: 8:30 a.m.

Voting was "very slow" at the polling place at Drew Wellness Center Tuesday, where only five people had cast ballots by 8:30 a.m., according to poll workers.

Off and on rain showers Tuesday, they predicted, couild slow turnout even more.

Dawn Kujawa

Richland County: 8 a.m.

Interim director of Richland County elections Samuel Selph said all the precincts opened on time and polls were operating well as of 8 a.m., with only minor "hiccups," such as some poll workers forgetting laptop passwords.

He's expecting about 10 percent voter turnout today.

Sarah Ellis

Meadowfield Elementary: 7:30 a.m.

On a primary runoff Election Day expected to draw a light voter turnout, nearly a dozen people had voted at Meadowfield Elementary within 20 minutes of the polls opening.

Poll clerk Nell Killoy said the precinct saw about a 20 percent voter turnout in the June 10 primary.

"If we get to 15 (percent) today I would say we're doing good," Killoy said.

Bill Weaver, 50, of Columbia, was among the first to cast his vote at the precinct.

He said he was drawn by the race for superintendent of education. He supports Republican candidate Sally Atwater in the party runoff against Molly Spearman because, he said, she represents change as someone who is "not entrenched in bureaucracy."

Weaver said he voted because "it's just important."

"If you don't vote, you ought to keep your opinions to yourself," Weaver said.

Sarah Ellis

When to vote. Polls are open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday.

Where to vote. Some residents in Richland and Lexington counties will be voting in different polling places. Find a list of polling places at thestate.com/politics. Other voter information also is available at scvotes.org.

Who can vote. Any registered voter can cast a ballot, even if they didn’t vote in the June 10 primary election. Those who voted then can only cast ballots in the same party primary Tuesday. The outcome of these runoffs will decide which Democrat and which Republican in some races will appear on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.

What to bring: A new voter registration card with a photo, or another form of photo identification: a S.C. driver’s license, S.C. DMV ID card, a federal military ID or a U.S. passport. Those who have been unable to get a photo ID should bring their old, non-photo registration card to vote using a paper ballot.

If there is a problem with machines, long lines or other issues, call the State Election Commission, (803) 734-9060. Also call The State, (803) 771-8366.

Races to watch


Who’s running: Two Democrats – Sheila Gallagher of Florence and Tom Thompson of Forest Acres – and two Republicans – Sally Atwater of Charleston and Molly Spearman of Saluda – remain in the running. Gallagher, who finished first in the June 10 Democratic primary, and Thompson, who finished second, agree on most of the issues, except for Gallagher’s proposal that S.C. voters should be allowed to vote on whether marijuana should be legalized and taxed to help pay for schools. Gallagher is a former teacher and president of the S.C. Education Association. Thompson is a former S.C. State dean. Atwater is the widow of GOP firebrand Lee Atwater and a retired special-needs teacher, and Spearman, a former state representative and Education Department executive who now heads an association of school administrators, have clashed over whether Atwater is prepared for the job and whether Spearman, a onetime Democrat, really is a Republican.

Why the race is important: The job is largely administrative. Policy is set by the State Board of Education. But the superintendent gets a bully pulpit. The Democrats say S.C. schools need more state money. The Republicans want South Carolina’s academic standards rewritten and pledge to support GOP Gov. Nikki Haley’s education reform agenda.


Who’s running: Two Republicans are on Tuesday’s runoff ballot – Mike Campbell, the son of GOP icon Carroll Campbell, and Henry McMaster, the former two-term state attorney general. McMaster scored 44 percent of the GOP vote in the June 10 primary and is the heavy favorite over Campbell, who captured 24 percent of the vote. Both are Haley allies. McMaster views the job expansively; Campbell pledges to do more on issues affecting the elderly, including Alzheimer’s. The winner faces Democratic state Rep. Bakari Sellers of Bamberg on the November ballot.

Why the race is important: The job is part-time and has little real power. But it does oversee the Office on Aging, an important issue in retiree-heavy South Carolina. Also, if a Republican is elected president in 2016, then-lame duck Gov. Haley – assuming she is re-elected in November – could be a candidate for a Cabinet post or ambassadorship. That means the winner could end up South Carolina’s next governor. At the very least, the winner has the first claim to being the leading candidate for governor in 2018.


Who’s running: Bill Banning, who has held the post 16 years, faces challenger Ned Tolar in the GOP contest. Banning finished first and Tolar second in a three-candidate match June 10. The district stretches from West Columbia across Oak Grove to the east side of Lexington and along part of the south shore of Lake Murray.

Why the race is important: Tolar is making the contest an unofficial referendum on a proposed penny-on-the-dollar sales tax. Banning spearheaded development of a Nov. 4 countywide ballot for a tax that would pay for new roads and other improvements, saying it gives residents a choice on making long-delayed projects happen faster. Tolar opposes the tax hike.

Tuesday: Go to thestate.com

Get updates during the day and runoff results Tuesday night.

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