My first inclination was to applaud Richland County legislators for thinking about maybe reconfiguring the county’s voting precincts, nearly two-thirds of which have more than the 1,500 voters that state law allows — nearly half of those with more than 1,000 extra voters, and one with nearly four times the legal limit. But as with so very, very many things at the perilous intersection of legislative hegemony, executive authority and local self-rule, the news is only good in relative terms. Sort of like you’re much better off when you’ve only lost your job, as opposed to losing your job, your home and your family.
The fact that basic precinct maintenance has been so badly ignored for so long just underscores the problem with state legislators meddling in matters that are none of their business.
Managing precincts — making sure they are redrawn as needed to comply with applicable laws, deciding how to redraw them and where to set up polling places — are tasks that should be performed by the agency that runs elections. (And that should be a state agency, not 46 local agencies, but that’s a slightly different topic.) By professionals whose job it is to implement the laws that are passed by legislators — not by the legislators, who, except in parliamentary systems, are simply not equipped to administer laws.
At the risk of stating the obvious, a first principle of anyone in a decision-making position should be this: When you reserve unto yourself the authority to do a job, you are obliged to actually do it. And really, whoever would have imagined that “county legislative delegation” was the designation for an official entity that has the power to implement state law, as opposed to a description of a bunch of legislators who happen to represent the same county? Only someone who understands the pathology of the S.C. legislator, who doesn’t trust anyone to do anything that he considers important or, heaven help us, politically sensitive.