New voting precincts in Northwest Richland County, as passed by the SC House last week.
I don’t want to rehash the Richland County election fiasco last year. It still frustrates me when we realize it didn’t have to be that way and it shouldn’t have been that way for thousands in our county.
While there still hasn’t been a “final report” issued by the Election Commission; I knew months ago I better not wait around for some magic fix. Instead, I’ve been working to fix what I can for the voters in Richland County.
In November, I outlined steps that I, and many of you, knew were needed. We didn’t need a final report to know just how bad this past election was managed.
First and foremost, we needed personnel changes in the County Election Office. I shared the concerns of many around the county and lead the call for changes to be made. By law, I could not directly make the needed changes; but I can (and did) voice your concerns. I also continue to work towards a better appointments process in Richland County (not just for our Election Commissioners that do make those personnel changes; but also all Richland County Boards and Commissions that are appointed by the House/Senate Delegation).
Next, we needed more accountability for elections. Since November, I’ve worked with colleagues in the House on how best to accomplish this. The bill I co-sponsored with Representative Finlay (another Richland colleague) was H.3197 . Whether the ultimate accountability will rest with the Secretary of State or, perhaps, the Election Commission, remains to be seen during upcoming hearings and floor debate.
Lastly, I helped from the State House by creating smaller voting precincts and will soon revisit early voting practices in our state. Last week, my bill to reduce precinct sizes in Northwest County passed unanimously; without any debate. H.3724 will reduce every voting precinct in the House District I represent (District 71) and help reduce wait times for the voters. This reduction in precinct sizes can help; but is not to be seen as the “cure-all”. Whether we have 1,000 voters or 3,000 voters in precincts, until the people running the elections send enough working machines as required; it won’t matter. Our voters still need at least one machine per 250 voters. The county had enough working machines last time; but they didn’t send them out as needed to get the job done for our voters. I know the map shown above is not easily viewed; but it shows smaller precincts in Northwest Richland County in order to stay below or just above 1,500 voters. In order to be fully implemented for our voters in the Irmo/Chapin community, the bill still needs to pass the Senate, the Governor, and ultimately the Department of Justice. Obviously, I’ll keep you posted along the way and appreciate any feedback you have.
In the coming weeks the House will debate early voting in South Carolina. Again, as I shared in November, this is something I could support if the final bill will improve upon the current process already in place. Many people in our state believe we have “early voting” but we don’t. What we have is “absentee voting” where you must meet certain criteria to be able to cast your vote prior to the election. Frankly, I don’t think we need people to have “an excuse” to vote early; nor do I feel they need 30 days to do so either. Hopefully we can provide a reasonable “no excuse” period to help reduce wait times on Election Day.
It’s been just a few months since the election fiasco; but wanted to follow up on the plan I shared last November and appreciate any feedback you still have on these proposals. You sent me here to serve and find solutions and I’ll continue to do so as your Representative.
Thank you for the privilege and opportunity!