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Richland County elections director resigns

New Richland elections director was looking for a change when he took job in Columbia

Rokey Suleman monitored elections in war zones before coming to new post in Columbia
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Rokey Suleman monitored elections in war zones before coming to new post in Columbia

Richland County elections and voter registration director Rokey Suleman has resigned.

Suleman informed the county elections board of his decision on Saturday, according to board chairwoman Jane Emerson.

His resignation comes after The Post & Courier reported that about 1 percent of the 142,000 votes cast in last November’s election did not get counted.

The State Election Commission alerted Richland County officials of the vote-counting issue, Emerson told The State, and the county has responded. Officials are expected to discuss the issue at a board meeting this week.

“We couldn’t really resolve what had happened, and (Suleman is) the boss,” Emerson told The State. “I think Rokey is a smart guy who thought it would be better to get out of the way and let us move on.”

Emerson said Suleman’s resignation was effective immediately. His duties would for now fall to deputy director Thad Hall, Emerson said.

The State has reached out to Suleman for comment.

Suleman was hired in 2017 to run the once-embattled elections office, replacing previous director Samuel Selph.

Richland County elections have been under tight scrutiny ever since a disastrous 2012 presidential election when many voters waited hours in lines. In the years since, the elections office has worked to regain respect and stability, although it has struggled with turnovers in leadership, legal and financial challenges and occasional tension with County Council, which funds the state-mandated agency.

Suleman entered with an impressive resume, having overhauled elections in Washington, D.C., consulted on elections at the local, state, national and international levels and established democratic election processes abroad, including in Montenegro. He also is a member of American MENSA, an organization for high-IQ individuals.

“I thought he brought a lot to our organization,” Emerson said. “These jobs are fraught, you know. The public, the legislators, the state office — everybody’s looking, and everybody’s anxious. It can be a tough atmosphere, but you really have to do what’s expected and suffer the consequences if it doesn’t (go as expected). So I appreciate the good things he has done for us, and I’m sorry to see him go, in some ways.”

The elections board meets Wednesday at 4 p.m. at 2020 Hampton St., when it is expected to discuss the vote counting issue and the next steps toward filling the director position.

Rokey Suleman survived a Taliban attack in Kabul three years before he became Richland County elections director

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Sarah Ellis has reported on Columbia and Richland County since 2014. She graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in journalism. She’s probably skipping happy hour to go to a County Council meeting.

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