South Carolina would turn running its elections back over to the elected Secretary of State under a bill that was sent to the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Making an elected official directly responsible for elections would give voters accountability on how they are conducted, said Rep. Alan Clemmons, one of the bill’s sponsors. But the director of the agency that currently runs elections said having a non-partisan commission oversee voting is better because it keeps politics out of one of the most important functions of the government. The bill passed a subcommittee Thursday and should be taken up by the Judiciary Committee next week. It is separate from legislation to overhaul how people file to run for office, which was prompted by 250 candidates being thrown off primary ballots last year.
Clemmons’ bill would create a four-person board of canvassers appointed by the governor and led by the Secretary of State. Two commissioners would come from the majority party and two from the largest minority party in the Legislature. Clemmons said all but about a dozen states run elections and voter registration through their secretaries of state, which are elected by the people. “I think that’s the kind of accountability that keeps all elected officials focused on doing the right thing,” said Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach.
But State Election Commission director Marci Andino pointed out South Carolina used to handle elections that way before turning them over to a commission appointed by the governor in 1968. She reminded lawmakers of problems in Ohio and Florida, where secretaries of states were accused of making election decisions to favor their political party. “There is no place for partisan politics in election administration,” Andino said.