The man who taxpayers are paying more than $70,000 to investigate what caused Richland County’s election meltdown eight months ago explained his final findings to a nearly empty room last week. Attorney Steve Hamm presented his completed report to the county board of elections June 26. There were hardly any bombshells, nor members of the public there to hear them had they dropped. Perhaps the biggest news was that Hamm confirmed he’d alerted law enforcement to the actions of a male part-time elections agency employee he said had “sabotaged” the number of voting machines deployed to precincts, causing long lines and some voters to leave before casting ballots. The Nov. 6 county election was plagued by snarled lines, broken machines — too few of them — and ballots that were never even counted. Much of that can be attributed to the actions of one unnamed person, Hamm said, although he wagged a finger at the elections board and agency management for not catching the problems early. That one elections worker, Hamm found in his investigation, had coaxed another employee into writing down wrong numbers on a spreadsheet, drastically reducing the number of voting machines that would be allocated to Election Day precincts. Hamm said he doesn’t know why the unnamed man might have wanted to choke off the number of voting machines on Election Day. He said he wondered if law enforcement might be able to find out.
Though Hamm has been spotted near the U.S. attorney’s office in the past few months, he won’t say whether his discussions involved state or federal agents. He says he’s met several times with law enforcement recently.
Asked outside the council chambers following his 40-minute presentation if Hamm had any indication that anyone from outside the county elections office might have been involved in an effort to reduce the numbers of voting machines, Hamm said it had occurred to him.
“I think it would be fair to say that would be one of the reasons I thought I at least ought to talk to law enforcement,” he said.