A Republican who lost a bid to unseat a Richland County councilman called for a new election Monday, accusing county elections officials of intentionally not putting out enough voting machines on Election Day. Michael Letts said at a news conference Monday that thousands of voters abandoned hourslong lines because there were not enough machines. Letts lost to County Councilman Jim Manning, 37 percent to 63 percent, but said he was also worried about a county sales tax vote. By a margin of more than 9,000 votes, Richland County voted to increase sales tax by a penny, a decision that supporters have said will mean a $1 billion windfall for the area. Letts, who opposed the increase, said fewer voting machines were sent to areas that had voted against the measure when it was first put to voters in 2010. “A law was broken, deliberately, before the polls were ever opened,” Letts said.
According to a law originally passed in 1962 and updated several times since, the county agency that runs that area’s elections should provide at least one machine for each 250 registered voters in that precinct.
Officials have said they sent out less than 800 machines for the county’s 244,721 registered voters, which averages to about one machine per 305 voters. The county left more than 100 machines behind in case they needed to be dispatched because of problems.
County officials have not explained why so many machines went unused. State Republican Chairman Chad Connelly has said the party plans to form a task force to see what happened.